The anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) made big gains in local elections, grabbing support from British Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives in a vote that underlines widespread frustration with Britain’s traditional parties.
Early results showed UKIP had won 42 council seats — as many as the opposition Labour party — after seven of 34 councils had been declared. Full results of the elections in England and Wales were expected later yesterday.
UKIP, which wants Britain to leave the EU and an end to “open-door immigration,” also pushed Cameron’s Conservatives into third place in an election for a national parliamentary seat in northern England in a humiliating blow to the premier.
The partial results underline the threat UKIP poses to Britain’s three traditional parties and the Conservatives in particular ahead of a national election in 2015.
It currently has no MPs in the British parliament and its strong showing could renew pressure on Cameron’s leadership from discontents within his own party who say he is too liberal.
Labour, which has controlled South Shields since 1935, held onto the national parliamentary seat that was previously occupied by David Miliband, brother of Labour leader Ed Miliband and a former foreign minister, but UKIP won 24 percent of the vote, its second-highest result in such an election.
“It shows us we’re a party on a trajectory and that we’re going places,” UKIP deputy leader Paul Nuttall told BBC TV after the South Shields vote.
“People are voting for us because we’ve won the arguments on immigration and the EU,” he added.