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

Political Editor

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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Copywriter / Direct Response Copywriter

£20k plus sales linked bonus. : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Copywriter to j...

Recruitment Genius: Accounting Technician

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has bec...

Guru Careers: 3D Creative Designer

Up to £26k DOE: Guru Careers: A Junior / Mid-Level 3D Creative Designer is nee...

Recruitment Genius: Ecommerce Website Digital Marketing Manager - Fashion / Retail

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You'll be joining a truly talen...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen