EASTLEIGH, England, March 1 (UPI) -- The British Conservative Party came in third Thursday in a by-election for the parliamentary seat held by disgraced former minister Chris Huhne.
The Liberal Democrats held on to the Eastleigh seat in Hampshire with 13,342 votes to 11,571 for the euroskeptic United Kingdom Independence Party, The Guardian reported. The Lib Dem share of the vote fell by 14.5 percentage points, while UKIP's rose 24 points.
The Conservative candidate came in third with 10,559 votes, down 14 points, and Labor trailed in fourth place.
Liberal Democrat leaders claimed the win as vindication given the circumstances that led to the open seat. Huhne, a former party star who came close to beating Nick Clegg for the leadership in 2007, resigned from Parliament in early February after pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice.
"This is a staggering result and the people who had written us off will have egg all over their faces," Tim Farron, the party president said. "It will be a turning point in this parliament and that we are in a position to win this seat completely changes the narrative of the parliament."
But the result appears to cement UKIP's standing as a gathering place for voters unhappy with Conservatives and Labor.
Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader, promised to field 2,000 candidates in the May elections for local councils.
"This was not a freak result, but shows that something is moving," he said.