For months, Nigel Farage warned of the impending political ‘earthquake’ that his party would unleash in the just concluded local and European elections but party leaders including David Cameron and Ed Milliband dismissed the looming Ukip threat as hocus-pocus .
For a party branded as a bunch of ‘fruitcakes and loonies’ sometimes even called ‘closet racist’ by some quarters, they have done exceedingly well in making huge gains in the local elections, gaining seats from both the Tories and Labour in communities where they had little or no presence before.
The conservatives lost 173 seats, Labour gained 373 seats well short of their over 400 seat target while the Lib Dems suffered the biggest losses of the night losing 244 seats in some of their strongholds.
In Essex in particular, Ukip made significant in roads forcing previous conservative controlled Basildon to no overall control. They also gained seats in Southend on Sea, Maidstone, Peterborough and Castle Point.
Labour also lost its control in Thrurrock due to five new Ukip Councillors but held on to its stronghold of Rotherham albeit with a proper opposition now in the form of Ukip.
Celebrating as he was welcomed by a crowd in Essex yesterday, Nigel Farage firmly declared that the ‘Ukip Fox was now in the Westminster Hen house’. According to the Guardian, some in the crowd thanked him for ‘saving them’ and some were in even tears…of joy presumably.
Following the Ukip ‘effect’, many disgruntled Tories have criticised David Cameron for not listening to the concerns of the public over issues on immigration and the EU, something they blame for the popularity currently enjoyed by Ukip.
Generally, labour performed way below predictions gaining just over 300 seats, well short of the over 400 expected. They did however snatch what is termed as David Cameron’s ‘favourite’ seat of Hammersmith and Fulham, a former stronghold of the conservatives. They also took Redbridge and Harrow from conservative control.
Labour now controls more councils than they have done in the last 20 years but Labour leader Ed Milliband has come under fire by some of his party members too for having run what they branded a ‘very unprofessional’ campaign.
They also criticised the paty’s campaign strategists for failing to consider during the campaign that Ukip posed a threat not only to the Tories but Labour too.
Ed Milliband has also come under fire for not ‘appealing to voters’ with many saying he lacks the charisma to engage and communicate with the media and voters.
It will be interesting to see how all three parties recover from the blow dealt by Ukip to all three main parties and how they tackle the issues that clearly got Ukip voted in by the public in the first place.
With general elections coming up in 2015, all three main parties have a lot of work to do after underestimating the power of the protest vote. The results of the local elections clearly show that the public, in some areas in England (as Ukip failed to make any gains in London) feel disenchanted by the pace and level of immigration and the UK’s membership of the EU.
If these issues are not clearly tackled head on in the next months, Nigel Farage will have even more reason to smile incredulously after a pint or two at the pub in celebration.