The Liberal democrat candidate Mike Thornton (above) won and saw his party hold on to the seat in south Hampshire while the Tories endured the embarrassment of dropping into third with UKIP stealing second spot.

“It’s disappointing for the Conservative Party,” said Prime Minister David Cameron of the result.

“This is a by-election, it’s mid-term, it’s a protest. That’s what happens at by-elections.”

After a torrid week for the Lib Dems this result has come at the best time.

“We held our nerve,” Nick Clegg said to Lib-Dem activists after the result.

“We stood our ground, we worked hard as a team, we worked out and campaigned on every doorstep.

“I’ll leave it up to the Labour and Conservative parties to seek to explain their very poor result.”

Labour came a dismal fourth, with just 4088 votes to the Lib Dems’ 13,342.

Photo: Getty.