WINCHESTER Liberal Democrats have comfortably won the city council by-election in the Oliver’s Battery and Badger Farm ward.

Brian Laming polled 894 votes, an overall majority over the Tory candidate Leanne Wheeler who polled 604 votes and Labour’s Hum Qureshi with 162.

The election on Thursday, with the result announced late last night, was caused by the death of David Spender last autumn.

It means the Lib Dems now have 28 councillors including independent former Lib Dem Adrian Hicks; the Conservatives have 27, including Alexis Fall, a recent defector from the Lib Dems. The Independents have two.

The Lib Dems have lost their majority but it now appears unlikely that the Tories will ally with the Independents and seek to topple them.

The Tories will be disappointed not to have pushed the Lib Dems harder than a 290-vote majority.

Labour will be pleased with their showing. Their candidate Mr Qureshi, who was until recently a Liberal Democrat supporter, increased their vote five-fold from the last time this seat was contested in 2008.

It will be heartened that it is poised to push the Lib Dems harder than in recent years in key wards such as St Luke (Stanmore) and St John and All Saints (Highcliffe and Winnall).