UK Politics

Eastleigh by-election: Politicians out of touch - Tory

David Cameron at Prysmian
Image caption David Cameron has promised to stay true to his principles.

A senior Conservative MP has criticised Westminster politicians, saying many have lost touch with the people.

Bernard Jenkin warned against calls to oust David Cameron, after the party came third in Thursday's Eastleigh by-election, behind UKIP.

Bur Mr Jenkin said politicians must actively engage with "ordinary people".

The Lib Dems held on to the Hampshire seat with a reduced majority of 1,771. A spokesman said they had won due to their strong record locally.

The by-election was called after former Lib Dem minister Chris Huhne resigned as an MP after he admitted perverting the course of justice over driving licence points.

The party's candidate, Mike Thornton, won despite a fall in the Lib Dems share of the vote of more than 14 percentage points since the 2010 general election.

Tory backbencher Colonel Bob Stewart said there was widespread dismay among the rank-and-file about the direction the party was taking and warned the leadership could not afford to ignore their concerns.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Jenkin - MP for Harwich and North Essex - said targeting the party's leadership was just a quick fix.

"We must avoid the idea that there is a silver bullet to answer all of this," he said.

Mr Jenkin said no party presented an "instantly attractive package that swept the country" in the by-election.

Ordinary people

"This isn't a crisis for a government but a crisis of governance. We're living in a country where politicians talk about fixing things... but they seem powerless to deal with it.

"There is a real sense that the whole of the Westminster village is living in its own world talking in its own terms and has lost touch.

"A small professional managerial class is running British politics and they have very little to do with the ordinary lives of ordinary people up and down the country.

"If we're going to avoid an Italian situation where comedians start getting elected then the whole British political establishment has got to be forced to engage much more actively with what ordinary people are feeling."

A Liberal Democrat spokesman told the BBC that their success in the by-election could be attributed to its strong record with ordinary people living in the area.

"Our stunning victory in Eastleigh showed how we can win by campaigning on our record locally and nationally - including on both council tax and income tax, by encouraging new jobs with local projects.

"It proved those critics who said we could not be a party of government and still win emphatically wrong."

A UKIP spokesman told BBC News David Cameron was out of touch with the country and with his party.

"Traditional Tory policies are being ignored by the prime minister," he added

On Friday UKIP's Nigel Farage said the prime minister was a "problem" for the Conservatives and some Tory MPs said there were lessons for the party.

But Mr Cameron dismissed UKIP's comments and promised to "stay true" to his principles.

Tory Party vice chairman Michael Fabricant said the party had struggled to present a distinctive message while UKIP had managed to connect with traditional blue-collar Tory voters on issues such as immigration and crime in a way that the Conservatives had not.

Labour leader Ed Miliband - whose party came fourth in the by-election - said it was a "disastrous night" for the Conservatives and David Cameron.

"What we want to hear from the prime minister is a recognition that people are deeply unhappy with the direction of the country and he's going to listen."

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