Farage declares Ukip 'serious players' after election surge

Published on Friday, 23 May 2014 11:00
Written by Daniel Mason

Ukip's promised earthquake in British politics showed signs of becoming reality overnight as the party made major gains in local elections, taking seats from both Labour and the Conservatives.

At 10:30, with results declared in 65 of the local authorities England and Northern Ireland in which elections were held, Ukip had gained 89 councillors while Labour had added 112. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were both down 103. Turnout in yesterday's vote was around 36%.

The success story for Nigel Farage's party is expected to continue on Sunday when the outcome of the European elections is revealed. Polls have indicated Ukip is in a tight battle with Labour to finish first in that contest.

Farage said it showed his Eurosceptic party would be "serious players" come next year's general election, even though the surge was not enough to hand it overall control of any councils and it fared less well in London than in other parts of the country. "The Ukip fox is in the Westminster house," he claimed.

"There are areas of the country where now we have got an imprint in local government," Farage said. "Under the first past the post system we are serious players."

While Labour failed to make the gains it had expected in some of its key targets, including Swindon, it did successfully wrest control of Hammersmith and Fulham from the Tories - a council previously described as David Cameron's favourite.

Labour MP Graham Stringer criticised party leader Ed Miliband after the party's mediocre performance, describing the election campaign as "unforgivably unprofessional". He added: "We have not done as well as we should have done in both the presentation of our policies and the organisation of the campaign."

Douglas Alexander, Labour's shadow foreign secretary and election strategist, dismissed those claims and insisted the party was making progress in "key battleground marginal seats" - while acknowledging that the country had entered an era of four-party politics.

The Conservatives won Kingston upon Thames from the Lib Dems but suffered a bad night overall, leading some Tory MPs to renew calls for an electoral deal with Ukip. However, party chairman Grant Shapps said there was "no question of a pact per se".

Michael Gove, the Conservative education secretary, said the real story of the night was Labour's failure to make serious inroads ahead of next year's general election. "You would ordinarily have expected the party to benefit not to be Ukip but to be Labour, who are the principle opposition, who are bidding to be the government next time round.

"And if you look across the country, they just have not made the progress that you'd expect a party to make if they were going on to become the next government."

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