LABOUR swept to victory in Barnsley Central last night, polling more than half the votes cast in what was a humiliating night for the Lib Dems.
Dan Jarvis, a 38-year-old Major in the Parachute Regiment, was elected the area’s new MP to replace disgraced Eric Illsley, jailed for 12 months for expenses fraud.
But turnout was just 36 per cent, down from 56.4 per cent at the General Election.
Mr Jarvis’ election was never in doubt.
But the surprise of the evening was the decimation of the Lib Dems, with the UK Independence Party securing the second highest number of votes.
And they were even beaten by the British National Party.
Within just a couple of hours of polls closing in the by-election, a huge pile of ballot papers was stacked up for Mr Jarvis, dwarfing those of his rivals.
By 12.30am, Labour’s stack of ballot papers numbered 13,500 - of less than 24,000 votes cast.
After being declared the winner, Mr Jarvis said: “Having served in the parachute regiment for 15 years, I have had the privilege to serve our country.
“All of us in politics and public life have a duty to stand up for the brave men and women of the armed forces. I know my party will do just that. We will also stand up for the NHS and people when they are at their most vulnerable.
“Barnsley deserves the best, something better than more unfair Tory cuts. I will always stand up for Barnsley.”
Supporting Mr Jarvis from Labour’s front bench team was shadow education secretary Andy Burnham.
He said: “Dan has life-experience and will be a real asset for Labour. We are in the process of rebuilding trust with voters and Dan is part of a new generation of Labour politicians.”
He also attacked the Lib Dems - who slumped from second in the General Election to sixth, for their lack of campaigning.
“Nick Clegg has not been able to face the voters,” he said.
UKIP were celebrating after their candidate Jane Collins came second. Leader Nigel Farage said: “Our message against the European Union is now becoming relevant to the public.”
He added: “We did well in the European elections in 2009 when we came second nationally.
“What is happening is that that vote is beginning to be replicated in Westminster elections.
“People are starting to see that the issues we are raising are relevant through issues such as prisoners being given the vote and recently changes to car insurance meaning women have to pay more.”
Tim Fran, president of the Liberal Democrats, said: “Two thirds of people didn’t bother voting because what was the flaming point? Our supporters’ votes don’t count in a constituency like this and we need a change to the voting system.”
RESULT: Barnsley central
Dan Jarvis (Labour) 14724
Dominic Carman (Lib Dem) 1012
Jane Collins (UKIP) 2953
James Hockney (Conservative) 1999
Enis Dalton (BNP) 1463
Tony Devoy (Independent) 1266
Kevin Riddiough (Eng Dem).............544
Michael Val Davies (Independent)...60
Howling Laud Hope (Monster Raving Loony Party).....................................198
36% turnout Winner’s maj 11771