European parliament elections 2014: Nigel Farage shrugs off racism claims as Ukip prepares for unprecedented triumph
Latest polls put Ukip first – and Lib Dems a distant fifth
Thursday 22 May 2014
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.”
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.
Nick Clegg is preparing for a disastrous performance in the elections 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.
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