Nigel Farage hails by-election breakthrough for Ukip: 'We have established ourselves as the third force in British politics'
Farage’s party claims it has overtaken Lib Dems after edging closer to first Commons seat with strong by-election results
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Friday 30 November 2012
Anxiety in the Conservative Party about the rise of the UK Independence Party has increased after the anti-EU party won second place in two parliamentary by-elections.
As Ukip claimed it is now Britain’s third party ahead of the Liberal Democrats, there were renewed Tory calls for an electoral pact with Ukip at the 2015 general election in the hope that this would prevent it denying David Cameron victory.
Labour retained all three seats contested on Thursday – Rotherham, Middlesbrough and Croydon North – on a dismal night for the two Coalition parties. In Rotherham, Ukip secured its highest ever share of the vote (22 per cent) in a Westminster election.
Michael Fabricant, a Tory vice-chairman who supports a pact with Ukip, suggested yesterday the Eurosceptic party could come first in the 2014 European Parliament elections, which will be fought under proportional representation, giving it a boost before the 2015 general election.
“If Ukip does very well in the European elections, as many expect, it will give them some momentum at a critical time,” he said. Although Ukip had not achieved the victory it hoped for in Rotherham, he said, it had secured “not a bad result.”
Mr Fabricant added: “By-elections are not general elections, when Ukip can only be ‘spoilers’, not winners. For that reason, all parties should keep their options open when we approach the final months towards May 2015.”
Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, below, said his party had now joined the “political mainstream”, adding: “We have established ourselves as the third force in British politics.” He said Ukip would talk to other parties about a pact if they promised a referendum on Europe – but the Tories would first have to ditch David Cameron because he had suggested Ukip was racist. “I’d do a deal with the devil if it got us a full, free and fair referendum on our membership in the European Union,” he said.
While the Tories were pushed into fifth place in Rotherham and fourth place in Middlesbrough, the Lib Dems suffered an even worse mauling, losing their deposit in Rotherham and Croydon. In Rotherham, Nick Clegg’s party came a humiliating eighth, reviving memories of the 1990 Bootle by-election in which David Owen’s SDP came seventh behind the Monster Raving Loony candidate, and was wound up shortly afterwards.
John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said Ukip had outscored the Lib Dems in this year’s by-elections by 6,000 votes, showing the Lib Dems were “no longer available as a party of protest.” He added: “They are a deeply unpopular member of the Coalition.” He suggested the Tories would be most worried about Ukip’s advance, while Labour could be “modestly satisfied” with its performance.
The by-elections in Middlesbrough and Croydon were triggered by the deaths of Labour MPs Sir Stuart Bell and Malcolm Wicks respectively, while former Rotherham MP Denis MacShane resigned after a highly critical report about his parliamentary expenses. Sarah Champion, pictured, became Rotherham’s first woman MP, winning a majority of 5,218 on a turnout of 33.6 per cent. In Middlesbrough, Labour’s Andy McDonald enjoyed a 48.7 per cent margin of victory over Ukip’s Richard Elvin, well up on Sir Stuart’s 26 per cent lead in 2010.
In Croydon North, Labour’s Steve Reed had a 47.9 per cent winning margin – up on the 31.9 per cent enjoyed by Mr Wicks in 2010 – and finished with 15,898 votes, ahead of Tory Andy Stranack on 4,137.
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...
£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A rewarding opportunity to work with an easy-...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company leads the market i...