UK's anti-EU party flags shock ahead for political landscape

LONDON Fri Feb 28, 2014 4:05pm GMT

Britain's UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader and member of the European Parliament (MEP) Nigel Farage walks outside the EU Parliament ahead of an interview with Reuters in Brussels February 12, 2014. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Britain's UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader and member of the European Parliament (MEP) Nigel Farage walks outside the EU Parliament ahead of an interview with Reuters in Brussels February 12, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

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LONDON (Reuters) - The leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), Nigel Farage, warned on Friday that his anti-EU party could cause a major upset in British politics by scoring a victory over established rivals at European elections later this year.

Such a result would act as a springboard for UKIP's national election campaign next year, helping the party win a "good number" of seats in the British parliament, Farage said.

UKIP has drawn voters away from Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative party by tapping Britons' scepticism over the benefits of European Union membership.

UKIP, running a campaign to end "open-door immigration" and to withdraw from the EU, has nine elected representative in the European Parliament but has never won a seat in the British parliament.

Speaking to a conference of party activists ahead of European elections on May 22, Farage said UKIP could cause the "biggest shock" in modern British political history by winning more EU seats than any of Britain's three main parties.

"We can top those polls, and if we top those polls it will then gives us the momentum to drive us forward to the general elections a year after that," Farage said.

"It is not inconceivable that a good number of UKIP people can be elected to the Commons in 2015, but it will only happen if we effectively clear this hurdle on May 22nd."

An opinion poll last month on voting intentions at the European elections showed Farage's party finishing in second place behind Britain's opposition Labour party but ahead of the Conservatives.

Support for UKIP in opinion polls for national elections has risen from around 3 percent in 2010 to about 13 percent in the latest surveys.

That puts UKIP in third place behind Labour who are on 38 percent and the ruling Conservatives with 33 percent but ahead of the coalition-government's junior partner, the Lib Dems with 10 percent.

(Reporting by William James, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)

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