NICK CLEGG has hailed the Liberal Democrat win in the Eastleigh by-election as a "stunning victory" and most commentators believe it will relieve the pressure, temporarily at least, on his leadership. Anguished Tories insist UKIP's strong showing in second place was a "freak result", but behind the scenes the defeat will lead to "renewed talk about Cameron's leadership and his conservative credentials", says the BBC's Robin Brant. Here's what leading commentators are saying about the by-election result:
- The Mole: Pressure on Tories to turn right
Iain Martin in The Daily Telegraph: "My goodness, what a result in Eastleigh. What do the Lib Dems have to do to lose? Start murdering each other? Start murdering voters?"
Philip Webster in The Times: "There are unlikely to be early moves to unseat David Cameron in the wake of the Eastleigh disaster. But efforts to change the way he leads his party are inevitable, threatening to destabilise both him and what remains of coalition unity."
Robin Brant of the BBC: "This is a nightmare for the Tories. Pushed to third in a seat that was theirs not too long ago, their UKIP-like candidate was humiliated. This will lead to renewed talk about Cameron's leadership and his conservative credentials."
Patrick Wintour in The Guardian: "Nick Clegg, facing growing questions over his own leadership, will regard it as a stunning triumph that his party survived against the backdrop of the previous Lib Dem MP Chris Huhne resigning and now facing a prison sentence for asking his wife to take speeding points."
Nick Robinson of the BBC: "Even though the Eastleigh constituency did not change hands, this by-election will change politics, spurring on those Tories who insist that David Cameron is driving their party over an electoral cliff."
Robert Winnett in The Daily Telegraph: "Behind the scenes, the result is shocking to the [Tory] party's strategists. The only positive for the party hierarchy is that they have two years until the next election to turn the situation around – although the clamour over Mr Cameron's leadership, and George Osborne's tenure as Chancellor, will grow."
Isabel Hardman in The Spectator: "I understand that those close to [potential Tory leadership contender] Adam Afriyie already expect the backbencher to make a number of interventions over the next few months which they hope will cement him as a serious voice speaking out against the Tory leadership, and even those who aren't are mulling over how the party should change its strategy."
George Eaton in The New Statesman: "Weary of the shackles of coalition, Tory MPs are desperate for evidence that they can achieve the majority that eluded them in 2010. But the resilience of the Lib Dems and the continuing division of the right means the Tories' chances of outright victory are looking slimmer than ever today." ·