LONDON — Britain’s UK Independence Party (UKIP) was hoping Saturday its local election success is replicated in the European Parliament polls as commentators said Nigel Farage’s group had broken Britain’s three-party mold.
The anti-EU, anti-immigration party immediately began targeting seats in the national parliament in the May 2015 general election after taking votes from the Conservatives, their Liberal Democrat coalition partners and the Labour opposition alike.
Elections for some local councils in England and Northern Ireland were held on Thursday alongside the European parliament vote — the results of which will be announced on Sunday.
Farage warned the main parties he would “see them in Westminster,” the British parliament, as his rivals tried to make the best of their performance at the polls, and braced for more of the same in the European vote.
Despite his party having no seats in parliament, the beer-swilling, chain-smoking Farage has led UKIP from a fringe party to become a standard-bearer for the euroskeptic movement across the continent.
Some backbenchers in Prime Minister David Cameron’s centre-right Conservative Party called for a trade-off with UKIP to stop them preventing the Tories from securing a parliamentary majority in 2015.
But Cameron ruled out striking a bargain with Farage.
“We are the Conservative Party. We don’t do pacts and deals. We are fighting all-out for an all-out win at the next election,” he said.
The Guardian newspaper called the results a “small earthquake in England,” saying the populist UKIP had proven it could take votes off Conservatives in their southern heartlands and Labour in the north.
“It was the election that broke the mold,” it said, judging that with no single party securing a third of the votes, another hung parliament loomed on the horizon.
“The truth is that British politics remain a nip-and-tuck fight. It is a very fluid picture. And the European results will roll the dice anew,” it said.
In results in so far from 150 of the 161 councils being contested in England, UKIP had won 157 seats, having previously held just two, although it still does not actually control any city halls.
Center-left Labour, led by Ed Miliband, were up 292 seats at 1,891, lower than the party had hoped for, while the Conservatives were down 201.
The centrist Liberal Democrats of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg took a pounding, down a massive 284 seats to 404, largely as a result of the party’s coalition with the Conservatives, unpopular with many of its left-leaning supporters.
In terms of control of councils, the Conservatives were down 11, Labour up six and the Lib Dems down two.
Turnout was a relatively weak 36 percent according to initial estimates.
A projected national share of the vote in a Britain-wide election suggested that Labour would have got 31 percent, ahead of the Conservatives on 29 percent with UKIP on 17 percent and the Liberal Democrats on 13 percent.
The Times newspaper said the results confirmed that voters were fed up with mainstream parties, with none enjoying appeal in every part of the country.
“There is a need for the main parties to think about why poorer, working-class voters feel particularly disenfranchised and are rejecting their values,” it said.
UKIP’s surge means other parties “will suddenly have to pay more attention to grassroots concerns over housing and immigration.”
Cameron said he still believed the Conservatives could win a majority at the general election but admitted there was voter frustration with the mainstream political parties.
Labour leader Ed Miliband rejected criticism of his leadership style after the party failed to make its expected gains.