Nigel Farage shrugged off allegations that Ukip was a racist party as he prepared for an unprecedented triumph in the European elections.
Voting booths opened at 7am for the European Parliament contest to return 73 Euro MPs, with more than 4,000 council seats at 161 English local authorities and those in Northern Ireland are also up for election.
A poll by YouGov for The Sun has projected that Ukip is poised to win the European elections with 27% of the vote, with the Lib Dems back in fifth place.
Before casting his ballots at Cudham C of E Primary School in Westerham, Kent, the Ukip leader told reporters: “If we get what we like things will never be quite the same again.”
"The allegations of the political establishment are against us. Twenty minutes ago the immigration figures were out - 526,000 people settled in this country last year. It's just impossible. We cannot go on with numbers like that.”
Mr Farage, who has faced controversy over his party's claim that Romanian gangs were responsible for 7% of crime in the EU, denied Ukip was racist, saying: “I have never heard such rot in all my life. We have got standing for us in these local elections, I bet you, a broader array of people from global nationalities than any other party.”
Ukip gaffes and controversies
Ukip gaffes and controversies
1/18 European elections poster
Party's latest EU election posters branded 'racist' and compared to BNP campaigns
2/18 Farage 'car-crash' interview
Ukip spin doctor forced to intervene as Farage falters in disastrous radio interview
3/18 Neil Hamilton
Picture Exclusive: The year is 1998. The venue is a Springbok Club meeting. The flag is a symbol for white supremacists in South Africa. And the speaker is Ukip’s deputy chairman, Neil Hamilton
4/18 Kerry Smith
Kerry Smith resigned as would-be MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock after it emerged he had mocked gay party members as “disgusting poofters”, joked about shooting people from Chigwell in a “peasant hunt” and referred to someone with a Chinese name as a “Chinky bird”
5/18 Natasha Bolter
Former Ukip member Natasha Bolter was suspected of not having the teaching qualifications she professed to, only days after it was revealed that claims of her having attended Oxford University were also false
6/18 Ukip Calypso song
Mike Reid released a single in praise of UKIP trying to control the UK's borders, only to withdraw the single after being accused of racism for singing in a Jamaican accent
7/18 Janice Atkinson
Janice Atkinson, Ukip's South East chair, pictured by protesters while campaigning in Ashford, Kent with local party chair Norman Taylor
8/18 Ukip cancels Freephone
Ukip cancels Freephone number after protesters repeatedly called to push up costs
9/18 Farage 'car-crash' interview
Mr Farage appeared to be caught out on a number of issues, from Romanian neighbours to people speaking foreign languages on the train
10/18 Ukip employs illegal immigrants
Ukip criticised after European election candidate found employing illegal immigrants
11/18 Magnus Nielsen
Ukip candidate: 'Take away the right to vote to improve election turnout'
12/18 Poster model
A “British builder” portrayed in a Ukip poster accusing EU workers of taking UK jobs turns out to be an Irish actor - aka a migrant worker
13/18 'Arrest protesters'
Ukip called for police to arrest protesters ‘who call us fascists’ ahead of showdown with anti-fascist groups in Brighton
14/18 London Live make-up
Ukip's Nigel Farage reportedly refused to go on London Live 'without professional make up-artist'
15/18 Andre Lampitt
Ukip forced to suspend the "poster boy" of its European election broadcast, after it was revealed he had posted a series of vile racist comments on Twitter
Nigel Farage says he is taking taking legal advice over “outrageous” allegations that he is responsible for more than £50,000 of “missing” EU funding that was paid directly into his personal bank account
17/18 Have I Got News For You
Nigel Farage appears in Have I Got News For You, spends the entire episode being ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
18/18 Anti-gay comments
Local branch chairman for Ukip defends a party's councillor candidate Douglas Denny who called gay people “abnormal” and said he wished “they stop trying to ram it down my throat”, all while discussing whether the word “sodomite” should be used
A Ukip victory would signify a significant blow for Labour, the Conservatives and, particularly, the Liberal Democrats, where party insiders are bracing themselves to lose all of their 11 European seats, according to a document leaked by The Guardian.
Bookmakers predict the Conservatives could be pushed into third place, with Ladbrokes reporting punters are backing Ukip to pick up the most votes in the Euro poll ahead of Labour.
Victory for Ukip would provide David Cameron with a challenging 12 months in Downing Street as he seeks to appeal to the nation and keep the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative Party content on issues including immigration.
Mr Cameron’s target of bringing net migration below 100,000 by the general election in 2015 is looking even more distant following the release of official figures by the Office for National Statistics today, which revealed that more than 200,000 people moved to Britain from the European Union last year, up 22 per cent on 2012.
There has also been a dramatic increase in the number of Eastern Europeans registering for National Insurance numbers, a sign that more are finding legal work and paying taxes. The most significant rise was amongst Romanian workers, with 47,000 registering in the year to March 2014, more than double the previous year.Reuse content