A senior Westcountry Conservative MP has shrugged off the party finishing third behind the UK Independence Party at a crucial by-election – arguing the Liberal Democrat victory is a "win" for the coalition Government.
The Lib Dems held off a late surge by Ukip to win the South Coast seat of Eastleigh vacated by Chris Huhne in the early hours of this morning.
Prime Minister David Cameron is likely to face questions from his party after Ukip's strong showing in one of the Tories' top target seats needed to secure an outright majority in the 2015 general election.
But Truro and Falmouth MP Sarah Newton, the Conservative Party deputy chairman, played down the significance of the result.
Asked whether trailing Ukip was a disaster, she told the Western Morning News: "It is not a disaster for the Conservative Party.
"It was a Liberal Democrat seat to hold. They are part of the coalition. It was a win for the coalition.
"Most people thought the Liberal Democrats would win."
Mr Cameron acknowledged that the result was "disappointing" for his party but insisted he was "confident" that in the 2015 general election the Tories would be able to win back the protest voters who deserted them last night.
Tory rebel Douglas Carswell said the result showed that policy changes were needed and questioned why the party was on a "long march of defeat".
Meanwhile, Lib Dem President Tim Farron said the result showed his party could even gain seats from the Conservatives at the next election despite the Lord Rennard scandal and slump in the opinion polls.
Mr Farron said he is eyeing three gains in Cornwall – meaning the Lib Dems would boast all six seats in the Duchy, as in 2005 – and told the WMN that Newton Abbot in Devon is "high up on the list" of targets.
Full story in tomorrow's Western Morning News