UKIP beats Conservatives in by-elections

LONDON Fri Nov 30, 2012 1:46pm GMT

1 of 4. Britain's United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) leader and member of the European Parliament Nigel Farage arrives at Millbank studios for a series of interviews in central London November 30, 2012. An anti-EU party has polled more votes than the Conservatives in two elections for parliamentary seats, in the latest sign that Prime Minister David Cameron's party faces a threat from the right.

Credit: Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett

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LONDON (Reuters) - An anti-EU party has polled more votes than the Conservatives in two elections for parliamentary seats, in the latest sign that Prime Minister David Cameron's party faces a threat from the right.

The UK Independence Party, or UKIP, is enjoying a surge in popularity as some right-leaning voters become disillusioned with the ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition against a backdrop of persistent economic problems.

Results showed on Friday that, as expected, the main opposition Labour Party had comfortably won the three seats, Croydon North, Middlesbrough and Rotherham, that were up for grabs in by-elections on Thursday.

But the more striking result was that UKIP came second in both Rotherham and Middlesbrough, while the two coalition parties suffered a drubbing.

"Our previous best-ever by-election result, a fortnight ago, was 14.3 percent and this one is comfortably over 20 percent," UKIP leader Nigel Farage told the BBC in Rotherham in the early hours, after the results were announced.

"Whichever way you look at it, UKIP is on the rise."

The Conservatives came fifth in Rotherham, after Labour, UKIP, the far-right BNP and the far-left Respect. The LibDems came an embarrassing eighth, behind a local clergyman running as an independent candidate.

UKIP had enjoyed a boost in support during the Rotherham by-election campaign after the Labour-run local council caused an uproar by removing children from a UKIP-supporting foster family.

The council said it took the step because the children were from an EU migrant background while UKIP had long taken a very hostile position towards the European Union, but politicians from across the spectrum condemned the council's decision.

The scandal may have contributed to UKIP's strong showing in the Rotherham by-election, but results elsewhere suggested support for UKIP was broadly on the rise.

In Middlesbrough in northeastern England, UKIP came second, the LibDems third and the Conservatives fourth. In Croydon North, a London seat, the Conservatives came second, UKIP third and the LibDems fourth.

Britain's "first-past-the-post" electoral system makes it hard for fringe parties to win parliamentary seats as they have to beat all other parties in an individual constituency. UKIP has no presence in parliament.

But many Conservatives are worried that in the next general election in 2015, UKIP could split the right-leaning vote, making it harder for Cameron's party to win seats that are tightly contested with Labour or the LibDems.

They fear UKIP may scupper Conservative chances of winning an outright majority and forming a government alone.

(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Andrew Roche)

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Comments (6)
PJ.Lennon wrote:
HaHa, the biter bit! The chickens have come home to roost for Shirley Williams and her LD chums as it now appears that UKIP will do for Tories what the Gang of Four did for Labour in 1983.
I’m afraid that unless your party resigns from this coalition Mrs Williams, the Liberal Democrat party will be just a rump in 2015 and you will have lost all political influence.
That is a shame because many many people agree with the ideas of the Liberal Democrats but you’ve sold your principles down the river!

Nov 30, 2012 12:15pm GMT  --  Report as abuse
Raymond.Vermont wrote:
Are the Lib/Dems a viable political operating concern within the UK now?

Doubtful…

Nov 30, 2012 12:20pm GMT  --  Report as abuse
ritchard wrote:
Its a pity this article focuses on UkIP beating Conservatives and not Labour beating UKIP, Conservatives et al. You make the UKIP sound as if they had had won where as they are losers in all by elections. If this trend is maintained Labour will have a huge majority in the next election. UK voters are tired of being tricked by the Conservative spin of a fair society when they can see they are only interested in annexing power for their pals, ex. BSkyB, West coast rail. The UKIP are a loud clamorous lobby who attempt to bully the British public by preying on their susceptibility in these difficult economic conditions. It is quite despicable but so are the ways with extremists. The important thing to remember is that the public have voted in favour of the Labour Party.

Nov 30, 2012 4:20pm GMT  --  Report as abuse
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