Nigel Farage has claimed his party will win double the number of seats predicted as UKIP makes significant gains across the country. Early on Friday morning UKIP had already surpassed the 80 seats it had been expected to take, dealing a significant blow to the main parties. UKIP took seats of both Labour and the Conservatives in their heartlands, which was particularly damaging to Ed Miliband, who has been accused by his own party of running a “unforgiveably unprofessional” campaign.
Labour lost its grip in the north and, in a serious blow, the party lost control of Thurrock, a key marginal for the General Election in 2015, to no overall control, losing two seats to UKIP. Douglas Alexander, Labour’s election co-ordinator, was forced to deny fighting a “lacklustre” campaign. He told Media the only way to tackle the march of UKIP was by deploying an “army of activists” on the doorsteps and said that Labour had knocked on seven million doors.
Mr Alexander said there was a “deep antipathy to how politics has been done” and UKIP had scooped up that vote but that “strengthening and growing the ground operation” was the only strategy for 2015. UKIP made its greatest gains in Essex, where Margaret Thatcher once identified the “Essex Man”, a man who moved out of London, once voted Labour but switched to the Tories. UKIP took seats from Labour in Hartlepool, won 10 seats in Rotherham and polled more than a third of the vote in wards in big cities, such as Sunderland, Birmingham and Hull, where it previously had little or no presence.
On Friday morning Mr Farage said he was “very pleased” with the result, which showed UKIP was now a “serious player” and said the party was now expecting to win double the 80 seats that had been predicted. He said: “The idea the UKIP vote just hurts the Tories is going to be blown away by this election” and added: “The UKIP fox is in the Westminster henhouse.” However, he admitted that the party was unlikely to be successful in London.
According to the latest Media projection, the results so far would give a hung parliament at the 2015 General Election. Media election analyst Professor Michael Thrasher said on the basis of the early results, UKIP looks likely to make significant gains in next year’s poll. Prof Thrasher said UKIP’s success suggests the party would claim at least one seat in the House of Commons in 2015.
Conservative Education Secretary Michael Gove said the results had not been as bad as expected. He categorically ruled out any chance of a pact with UKIP. Most councils will not declare their results until later on Friday. The Liberal Democrats suffered significant loses, particularly in Portsmouth where it lost control with UKIP gaining six seats. However, it managed to hold on in Eastleigh, where UKIP had been expected to make gains, which was a significant victory for the party. Business Secretary Vince Cable admitted it would be a bad night, adding: “We take a kicking for the things that government does that are unpopular.” He argued supporters would be “pleasantly surprised” in areas where the party is organised. Brentwood – constituency of the Tory secretary of state for local government, Eric Pickles – has slipped from the Conservatives to no overall control.