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New Conservative MP Dr Caroline Johnson [Image: Joe Giddens/PA].

What are we to say about the result of the Sleaford and North Hykeham by-election? That you can get a good result – even if you can’t spell the constituency’s name – by flooding a constituency with campaigners and hassling people for their vote?

If so, we would have to qualify that by saying the tactic only served to give UKIP a smaller drop in voter numbers than Labour. If you look at the chart showing what happened to voter numbers between last year’s General Election and yesterday, you’ll see…

… the Conservatives lost almost half the votes they had in 2015, making them both the winners and the biggest losers of the by-election.

Labour’s drop to fourth place makes the party look terrible, but there is a difference of just 1,063 votes between the second- and fourth-placing parties, making the result statistically useless if any attempt were made to use it to predict a general election result.

In effect, Labour, UKIP and the Liberal Democrats are neck-and-neck.

Liberal Democrats don’t care about the good of the UK – they care about being in power.

But the Lib Dems managed to increase the number of voters they had – and this is significant as turnout, at 37.1 per cent of the electorate, was 33.1 per cent lower than at the general election last year.

It indicates that voters are continuing to return to the Lib Dems after punishing them for five years of coalition with the Conservatives at the 2015 election.

It indicates that the Lib Dems, who claimed to have run their biggest campaign ever in Lincolnshire, are also following the tactic of flooding a constituency with campaigners – but, with them, it paid off better.

It also indicates that voters are choosing to ignore the fact that the Lib Dems would happily go right back into coalition with the Conservatives if it gave them another whiff of power.

In a recent interview, Mr Farron said: “Any serious politician who rules out going into power isn’t a serious politician.

“It’s not up to me to choose who the Liberal Democrats go into power with if the Liberal Democrats don’t get a majority. That’s up to the electorate [and] that’s how the arithmetic worked out in 2010.”

Voters should remember that: Liberal Democrats don’t care about the good of the UK – they care about being in power.

Here’s how the Daily Mirror reported the story:

“The Conservatives have comfortably held the Sleaford and North Hykeham seat with Ukip the runner-up in the parliamentary by-election.

“Tory candidate Caroline Johnson will be the new MP after winning 17,570 votes, beating Ukip’s Victoria Ayling, who had 4,426.

“It was a bad result for Labour, slipping from second place at the 2015 general election to fourth, behind the Liberal Democrats.

“The Tory majority of 13,144 is far lower than the 24,115 secured by Mr Phillips last year but represents a comfortable hold for the Conservatives in a by-election with a turnout of just 37%.

“Dr Johnson won 53.51% of the votes, down 2.68% on the share in 2015, while Ukip won 13.48%, down 2.21%.

“Labour’s Jim Clarke won 3,363 votes, a 10.24% share, down 7% on 2015, while Liberal Democrat Ross Pepper’s 3,606 votes gave him a 10.98% share, up 5.33% from the general election.

“Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said … ‘With Labour yet again nowhere, and after losing their deposit in Richmond, the Liberal Democrats are the real opposition to the Conservative Brexit Government.'”

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