Humdrum Ukip performance sees Labour cruise to by-election victory

Ukip's ability to threaten Labour seats in the north appeared to have been over-hyped this morning, after the party polled a distant second in the Wythenshawe and Sale East byelection.

Labour's Michael Kane easily retained the seat for the party with 13,261 votes, a majority of over 8,000.

Ukip's John Bickley came second with 4,301 votes, the Tories' Daniel Critchlow third on 3,479 votes and Mary di Mauro of the Lib Dems' fourth on 1,176 votes.

It was a despairing result for the junior government partner, which once took more than 25% of the vote in the seat. It is the eighth time in 15 by-elections that the party has lost its deposit since 2010.

Turnout was just 28.24%.

A few years ago Ukip may have been pleased with polling second in a by-election, but the distance of the Labour lead cast doubt on its insistence that it could challenge the party in the north in the same way it challenges the Tories in the south.

It is the sixth time Ukip has come second in a by-election since 2010, cementing the impression that the party is always the bridesmaid but never the bride.

The result will boost the confidence of observers who predict Ukip will fail to come first in the European elections later this year.

Nigel Farage claimed Labour ran a dirty tricks campaign during the contest, with complaints about how quickly postal ballots were sent out after the poll was announced.

"I have been on benders for longer than the opening of the nominations and the start of the postal ballots," he said.

"This has been a farce."

In reality, Ukip struggled to get off the ground due to the lack of a local campaigning machine in place. It has no councillors in the seat and it struggled to compete with Labour's entrenched position.

Lucy Powell, Labour MP for Manchester Central, said Farage "predicted they might win 30% of the vote and they are very disappointed that Labour has increased its share of the vote.

"As a result Ukip want to turn this into a debate about process and tactics. Our vote has come out firmly and strongly."

Labour's choice of a local candidate appears to have paid off in the seat, but the result also seemed to partially vindicate the community organising techniques of Arnie Graf, a former mentor to Barack Obama who is tasked with sparking a grassroots mobilisation for Labour.

The Tories tried to put a brave face on coming third, with Conservative MP Graham Brady saying he was "psychologically unchallenged by the result".

The party lost 111% of its vote share from 2010.

The by-election was triggered by the death of Labour MP Paul Goggins in January.