* Former Parachute Regiment major Dan Jarvis cruises to 30 per cent majority
* Nick Clegg certain to face pressure from party after humiliating result
* Lib Dem candidate loses his deposit after Nick Clegg snubs his campaign
* UKIP take second and BNP finish fourth behind Conservatives
Nick Clegg warned critics not to write off the Liberal Democrats following their disastrous performance in the Barnsley Central by-election – with the party finishing in sixth place behind the BNP.
The Liberal Democrat leader insisted he would not be knocked off course by his party’s ‘kicking’ in a safe Labour seat on an ‘abysmally low turn-out’.
As expected, Labour candidate Dan Jarvis held on comfortably in the party’s South Yorkshire stronghold to become the newest Labour MP.
Mr Jarvis, a former Army major who has served in Afghanistan, replaces the disgraced former MP Eric Illsley, who was jailed for expenses fraud last month.
But the political fallout from the poll is likely to be greater for the Lib Dems, who slumped from second place at the General Election to sixth last night, behind both the UK Independence Party and the far-right BNP.
The Lib Dem leader is certain to come under pressure from his own party for a change in direction after one of the most humiliating results they have suffered in decades.
In a brief appearance before the TV cameras today, Mr Clegg said: ‘The result in the by-election last night was obviously a bad result for the Liberal Democrats.’
He added: ‘I have no doubt that people will try to use this single result to write off the Liberal Democrats.
‘They have done it in the past and we have proved them wrong and we will prove them wrong again.
‘In Government, we will continue to do what I think is absolutely vital for the long-term benefit of the country – namely sort out the economic mess we inherited from Labour for the long-term benefit of the country.’
Mr Clegg made clear he believes his candidate had never stood a chance: ‘The truth is that it was a no-contest for any non-Labour candidate.’
There was also embarrassment for the Conservatives, whose candidate James Hockney finished third, behind UKIP’s Jane Collins.
Lib Dem candidate Dominic Carman, son of the late libel lawyer George Carman, lost his deposit and polled just 1,012 – even finishing behind local independent Tony Devoy.
At the last election they polled almost 6,500 votes. Turnout was 36.5 per cent.
Mr Jarvis, who polled 14,724, said voters had sent the ‘strongest possible message to David Cameron and Nick Clegg’ that their ‘broken promises and reckles cuts are letting communities down’.
The Lib Dems have slumped in the polls since agreeing to form a coalition with the Conservatives last year. U-turns on issues like university tuition fees have hit LibDem support, particularly in Labour seats.
In a highly unusual departure Mr Clegg did not even visit the seat during the campaign, despite the fact it is only 15 miles from his own Sheffield constituency.
The tactics – and result – are likely to increase tension between Mr Clegg and activists as they prepare for the party’s spring conference in Sheffield next weekend.
The Lib Dems have traditionally performed well in by-elections and the poor result in Barnsley will underline concerns about the impact of the coalition on its prospects.
The by-election was triggered by the resignation of former Labour MP Eric Illsley, who was jailed for 12 months in February for expenses fraud.
Despite the scandal, Lib Dem sources admit they have gone backwards.
A senior source said yesterday: ‘If this by-election had been fought 18 months ago we would have thrown everything at it and had a real chance. As it is, there is no hope.’
What interest there was in a low-key contest came in the choice of candidates for the main parties.
Mr Jarvis is a former major with 1 Para who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and quit the Army to run for Parliament.
He is also the single parent of two young children following the death of his wife last year.
He is the first serving soldier to quit the Army in order to stand for Labour since 1945.
And Tory leader David Cameron was at one point hopeful that Darren Gough would stand for the party in his home town, before the England cricket star decided being an MP would not fit in with his other commitments.
The Tories instead selected businessman and coalminer’s grandson James Hockney.