Many predicted UKIP would do well but they couldn’t possibly win the UK European elections. Err, well, actually, they did, with even The Guardian reporting Nigel Farage’s party won the European elections with ease.
UKIP topped the poll with 27.5% of the vote translating into 23 MEPs, and even winning a seat in Scotland. It is the first time since the general election of 1906 that a party other than Labour or the Conservatives has won a national election.
This result came on the back of the local elections last week where UKIP took more than 150 council seats off the traditional parties. As Nigel Farage said, “The Ukip fox is in the Westminster hen house”. In my neck of the woods, UKIP surges saw the Tories lose control of councils in Brentwood, Southend-on-Sea, Basildon and Castle Point.
UKIP have capitalised on an anti-establishment sentiment in the UK where people feel they are governed by an out-of-touch metropolitan elite from London and Brussels – and they would be right, of course. All three main parties suffered in both sets of elections as a result but the Lib Dems were all but annihilated, losing all their MEPs bar one.
The next stop is Newark where there is a parliamentary by-election on 5th June, which UKIP’s Roger Helmer hopes to snap from the Conservatives. This will be difficult – the Tories currently have a 16,000 majority – but not as hard as before the political earthquake Nigel Farage’s party unleashed over the last few days. I still wouldn’t bet money on a UKIP victory but it’s now 50:50 they will get their first MP.
The UKIP leader is looking further afield and is predicting a handful of his candidates being elected to Westminster in next year’s General Election. It is astonishing this is now being taken seriously by the mainstream media considering their contempt only a year or so ago and does go to show there are now millions of voters supporting UKIP.
A fair few Conservative ministers, in particular Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, are parroting the usual line that disaffected Tories who voted UKIP in the local and European elections will come back to the Tory-fold in 2015. I’m now not too sure. Now the UKIP electorate can see it is not the Tories they will be denying a majority in Westminster but Labour, the incentive to come back to David Cameron’s Conservatives is not so strong. And the Prime Minister’s guarantee of an in-out EU referendum in 2017 is not stacking up because a) he would actually have to win a general election and b) they don’t believe him.
I’m not sure David Cameron can do anything about the rise of UKIP except concentrate on the economic message and pray the growth rate trickles down to the provinces before 7th May 2015.