Page last updated at 09:43 GMT, Friday, 27 June 2008 10:43 UK

Labour fifth as Tories win Henley

John Howell reacts to his win after the result is announced

Conservative leader David Cameron has hailed an "excellent result" in the Henley by-election, which saw Labour beaten into fifth place.

Tory candidate John Howell won with a majority of 10,116 to replace Boris Johnson as the town's MP.

The Lib Dems came second, slightly increasing their vote share.

Labour's Richard McKenzie trailed in behind the Greens and the BNP and lost his deposit, as Gordon Brown marked his first year in Downing Street.

The turnout was just over 50%, compared with 67.9% in 2005.

'Absolutely excellent'

Mr Howell took the seat with 19,796 votes to the Lib Dem candidate Stephen Kearney's 9,680 and replaces London Mayor Boris Johnson as Henley's MP.

Labour's Richard McKenzie could only poll 1,066 votes, behind the Green Party's Mark Stevenson on 1,321 and the BNP's Timothy Rait on 1,243.

RESULT AT-A-GLANCE
John Howell:
Conservative 19,796
Stephen Kearney:
Lib Dems 9,680
Mark Stevenson:
Green 1,321
Timothy Rait:
BNP 1,243
Richard McKenzie:
Labour 1,066
Chris Adams:
UKIP 843

Both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats saw their share of the vote rise compared with the 2005 General Election while Labour's fell by more than 11%.

The by-election was triggered by Mr Johnson's resignation after he was elected mayor of London.

Speaking on Friday, Mr Cameron said: "It's an absolutely excellent result in Henley" but a "disastrous result for the Labour Party".

And he said he believed it was "the first time in a long time when there's been a contest between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats where there's been a swing to the Conservatives."

"I think what we saw was people who voted for all sorts of different parties, including the Liberal Democrats, now looking at the Conservatives and saying: 'Yes this is an alternative government that I can believe in'."

'Not personal'

Oxfordshire councillor Mr Howell said the vote showed that people had had enough of Labour: "It's clear that the New Labour coalition is falling apart and that the Conservatives under David Cameron's leadership are on the march."

Health Minister Ben Bradshaw admitted it was a "terrible result" for Labour but said it was down to current economic conditions rather than the unpopularity of Gordon Brown.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "When people start feeling the pinch and start feeling a reduction in their disposable income ... they take their anxiety out on the government.

"I don't believe he is personally unpopular," he added, saying that it was the "completely irrational" criticism by political commentators that was fuelling negative perceptions.

The Liberal Democrat candidate, Stephen Kearney, said voters were angry and fed up with the government.

"This is an abysmal result for the Labour party that has been in government for almost 11 years and has lost most of its support.

"But I have found no positive enthusiasm for the Conservative alternative.

"The Conservatives can say what they are against, but they have failed to say anything about what they are for and what they stand for."

Opinion poll

And Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said the result showed Mr Brown's days in No 10 were numbered.

"Labour's days are well and truly over and it is the Liberal Democrats who are challenging the Conservatives in the south and Labour in the north," he said.

Meanwhile, a YouGov opinion poll for the Daily Telegraph suggests Labour has closed the gap on the Tories over the past month.

Labour was up five points on the month at 28% - still 18 points behind the Conservatives who dropped one point to 46%. The Liberal Democrats were down three on 15%.

But 61% of those surveyed thought Gordon Brown was a liability to the party, compared to 21% when he came to power a year ago.

Last year, 62% thought Labour would win the next general election, but that has dropped to 16% while 67% now think that the Conservatives are on course for victory, the poll suggests.


SEE ALSO
Henley by-election result in full
27 Jun 08 |  UK Politics
What is at stake in Henley poll?
24 Jun 08 |  UK Politics
Brown marks first year as PM
27 Jun 08 |  UK Politics
June date for Henley by-election
05 Jun 08 |  UK Politics
Johnson's final appearance as MP
04 Jun 08 |  UK Politics
Johnson becomes mayor of London
04 May 08 |  UK Politics

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