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U.K. anti-immigration party surges in vote

Local results seen as protest over economy, elites

AFP-JIJI, The Washington Post, AP

The anti-immigration U.K. Independence Party has broken through as a major political force in local elections that delivered a bloody nose to Britain’s ruling coalition.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said Saturday that his Euro-skeptic party could no longer be dismissed as a protest movement, as it averaged almost one-quarter of the vote in elections for local authorities in England.

“This is a real sea change in British politics,” said Farage, a charismatic member of the European Parliament.

The results represented one of the strongest showings by a nontraditional party since World War II, with the gains underscoring the rise of populist and nationalist parties across Europe.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives appeared hardest hit by UKIP’s surge, and he acknowledged the success of a party he once dismissed as full of “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists.”

“I think there are major lessons for the major political parties,” Cameron said in his Oxfordshire constituency, where the Conservatives lost control of the local council.

He said voters clearly wanted the government “to do even more to work for hardworking people to sort out the issues they care about,” citing the economy, immigration and welfare.

The BBC put the projected national vote share for UKIP at 23 percent. It secured more than 130 council seats in Thursday’s voting. The Conservatives had a 25 percent share of the vote, losing more than 300 seats and ceding control of 10 councils, although they still control 18.

The opposition Labour Party, which has been leading opinion polls amid a government austerity drive and stagnating economy, led the field with 29 percent and won modest gains of around 290 seats.

The Conservatives’ junior coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, were pushed by UKIP into fourth place with 14 percent.

UKIP still does not have a single member of Parliament and will struggle to translate its local success into victory in the 2015 general election.

But the results are a major breakthrough and bode well for its prospects in European Parliament elections next year.

The coalition parties had braced for losses in the midterm elections, which are often used by voters to punish ruling parties.

But the results were sobering for the government, particularly in the parliamentary by-election in South Shields, northeast England, which took place at the same time. Labour held the seat, vacated by former Foreign Minister David Miliband, although its majority was almost halved. UKIP came second with 24 percent of the vote.

Tony Travers, director of the government department at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said: “It is a traditional midterm protest vote and it’s found its lightning conductor through UKIP. However, there is a more generalized protest . . . against mainstream elite politics.”

He suggested UKIP’s appeal — and the local election results — bear echoes of the tea party movement in the U.S., complete with cries of “we need to get our country back.”

UKIP, once driven by the sole aim of withdrawing Britain from the European Union, has picked up support from socially conservative voters, many of them older people disillusioned by the mainstream parties, particularly with their failure to control immigration.

Cameron sought this past week to regain support by indicating that he may bring forward legislation on holding a referendum on Britain’s membership in the EU. However, Rob Ford, an expert on UKIP at the University of Manchester, warned: “UKIP success is today being driven by domestic issues, especially immigration, not the EU. Offering a tougher line on Europe is not the solution.”

  • Christopher-trier

    UKIP did well because the other parties have failed. Labour failed in their 13 years in power. Cameron’s Conservative Party has underwhelmed even those with the lowest expectations. The Liberal Democrats have shown themselves as inept and egotistical, a party of PC protest rather than government. Most British voters do not wish to be part of the EU. Most Britons have grown sick of hearing that the likes of Abu Qatada cannot be deported, that rapists, paedophiles, murderers, and others guilty of grave crimes must remain in the UK because the European Court tells them they can’t deport them. Most in the UK are not anti-immigrant, they’re concerned that the UK has lost control of its borders and has to let anyone with a particular passport in regardless of whether or not they can contribute anything. The appalling standards and ideological besnt of AP are blatantly obvious in this article.

    • Sasori San

      Dear Sir, the geography of the ‘UK’ is obviously not your strong point when it comes to the recent council elections.England is not the UK…the majority of seats that were contested in were in ENGLAND, of which the 25% of voters who chose to vote for UKIP is clearly NOT a representation of “Most British”, “Most Britons” or even “Most in the UK” (Scotland,Ireland & Wales) as you claim. Apart from classing this minority voice of racism and ignorance in England, as being representative of the rest of the country,who apparently (according to you) “do not wish to be part of the EU”, and have “grown sick of hearing that the likes of Abu Qatada cannot be deported”, and that “rapists, paedophiles, murderers, and others guilty of grave crimes must remain in the UK”. This is clearly the kind of misinformation and ‘dog whistle’ rhetoric that gets a public reaction, regardless of the facts, and that the likes of various governments,the Nazi’s,UKIP & yourself spout out to win support by playing on peoples perceived fears and phobias.Linking ‘Abu Qatada’ with any other “rapists,paedophiles” & “others guilty of grave crimes”, implying that foreigners are the only ones who commit crime in the UK, and “can’t be deported” and have “grown sick of hearing that the likes of Abu Qatada cannot be deported, that rapists, paedophiles, murderers, and others guilty of grave crimes must remain in the UK because the European Court tells them they can’t deport them” (tough luck if you’re British!).Unless its escaped your notice in the UK news lately,the murder case in the media at the moment concerns a young girl from Wales,(who was apparently murdered by a British neighbour,the trial is ongoing),there are 2 seperate rape cases concerning 2 British stars from a popular TV soap opera set in Manchester, and all the recent paedophilia and sexual offence cases,starting with Jimmy Saville, and other cases under investigation concern British celebrities from the BBC and ITV going back some 40 years.

      • Christopher-trier

        I do not know what you’re replying to but it is not in response to anything I actually wrote.

      • Sasori San

        That’s what quotation marks are for, eg,”most British voters…”,most Britons….”,”most of the UK…” &.. “hearing that the likes of Abu Qatada cannot be deported, that rapists, paedophiles, murderers, and others guilty of grave crimes” etc,If you can’t remember what you wrote I suggest you read it again!

  • nobuo takamura

    Like the Ishin-no-kai in Japan, UKIP will play roles of a lightning conduit or rod for all the main parties, both the ruling parties and the opposition parties, to lose their trust by people and making the political situation stagnating for more years with no better result coming, which is bound to lead people to deepen their idea on politics. This is a humankind history.

    • Christopher-trier

      At the same time it can also scare the main parties straight. Voters rarely support parties such as UKIP or AfD in Germany unless they’ve given up hope that the main parties will do their jobs.

  • Ealonian

    Christopher-trier is spot on in his assessment of the situation and concept of real BRITONS who now have to think twice about our nationality as our passport is constantly devalued. Also, many British passport holders are old immigrants, 2nd or 3rd generation who are equally astounded at the rate of immigration going on in the U.K. They had to work to make ends meet – not receiving housing, unemployment benefit etc. from day 1 on entry to the U.K.

    Abu-Qatada would certainly be deported from Japan and on a good day perhaps be hanged.

    Also many hope for the collapse of the BBC which is largely a socialist’s dream and an Englishman’s nightmare. A policy Nigel Farage would do well to put into his next manifesto!