The Liberal Democrats – the junior partners in the UK's coalition government - defied the odds to be declared the winners in the early hours of Friday of the by-election in the Hampshire town of Eastleigh, writes David Sapsted for Re:locate.
Chris Huhne, a former Cabinet minister who won the seat for the LibDems at the general election, stepped down in January after admitting motoring offences. The party has also been rocked in the past 10 days over allegations of sexual harassment by one of its senior figures.
On Friday, party leader Nick Clegg described his party's success in hanging on to the seat, albeit with a much reduced majority, as “stunning”. He said, "We held our nerve, we stood our ground... we overcame the odds and we won a stunning victory."
But the big winner on the night was the UK Independence Party (UKIP) which came from nowhere to record 28 per cent of the vote, pushing the Conservative candidate into third place and the Labour one into fourth.
Nigel Farage, the right-wing leader of UKIP, whose main aim is to pull Britain out of the European Union, said the Eastleigh result was a "massive boost" for his party ahead of English county council elections in May and next year's European Parliament polls, when he predicted that UKIP would cause "an earthquake" in British politics.
"The Conservatives failed here because traditional Tory voters look at (Prime Minister David) Cameron and they ask themselves 'Is he a Conservative?' and they conclude 'No, he's not'," Mr Farage said in a BBC radio interview.
Mr Cameron himself described the result as “disappointing”, but added, “It is clear that, in mid-term by-elections, people want to register a protest. But I am confident that at the general election we can win those people back by demonstrating that we are delivering for everyone who wants to work hard and wants to get on. That is what we will be focused on."
There are concerns, though, that the success of UKIP, which draws much of its support from the right wing of the Conservative Party, will force Mr Cameron into adopting an even tougher stance on cooperating with the rest of Europe at a time when he thought he had appeased his Eurosceptic critics by promising an in-out referendum on EU membership after the 2015 election.