THE Liberal Democrats gained a dramatic election victory in Crewe with the far-right BNP also springing a surprise.
In a surprise result Lib Dem candidate David Cannon narrowly defeated Labour's Steve Hogben in the Crewe South by-election on Thursday.
It is the first time in nearly three decades that Labour have failed to win a county council seat in the town.
The polls also produced a surprise when the far-right BNP took third place leaving the Conservative party to come an embarrassing fourth.
Speaking after the count a victorious Mr Cannon said a high-profile campaign against the BNP had helped the Lib Dems win.
He said: 'Most people chose the Lib Dems as opposed to the BNP as a protest against Labour, but I'm still disappointed they got so many votes.'
Mr Cannon gained 1,393 votes (42.9%), beating Labour's Mr Hogben, who gained 1,082 (33.3%), by a margin of 311.
The BNP and the Conservatives were left well behind and separated by just 30 votes, polling 385 votes (11.8%) and 355 votes (10.9%) respectively.
Mr Cannon said: 'When I was canvassing there was a worry the BNP would do well but many people told me on the doorstep they would be voting against them.'
It had been feared a low turnout in the ward would help the BNP, but in the end 3,241 people from 11,020 eligible voters (29.4%) went to the ballot box.
While not a record turnout, the number in a stand-alone by-election matched the 30% turnout achieved in the Doddington poll during the 2001 borough council elections.
Defeated Labour candidate Mr Hogben said: 'The good thing is the result showed it was a two horse race between Labour and the Lib Dems.
'The fact the Conservatives were pushed into fourth behind the BNP is very disappointing. The Tories have let down many people in Crewe.'
Mr Hogben also admitted to being 'bitterly disappointed' not to win the seat, ending his party's control of a Crewe ward on the county council for the first time since 1977.
BNP candidate Michael Beardshaw said: 'I think it's quite a strong result for us considering the amount of bad press we have received.
'Coming ahead of the Conservatives shows the BNP are a legitimate choice for voters in Crewe and that will only build over the coming months.'
Conservative candidate Peter Hallett blamed tactical voting by residents hoping to oust Labour, and the emergence of the BNP, for diluting his support.
He said: 'People were told it was a two-horse race between Labour and the Lib Dems, so they used their vote to back the Lib Dems as a protest.'