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The anti-European Union UK Independence Party made significant gains in local elections, startling the ruling Conservatives and Lib Dems.
LONDON, England — The UK Independence Party – the right-wing, anti-EU party whose surge in recent years has shaken up British politics – gained further in local elections across England and Wales on Thursday.
UKIP earned nearly 25 percent of the total vote in elections in 27 county councils and seven towns, according to results coming in throughout the day Friday.
The BBC projected UKIP to claim 23 percent of national votes, coming in just behind the ruling Conservative party with 25 percent and Labour with 29 percent.
The UKIP, which earned the best result for a fourth party since WWII, wants Britain to leave the European Union and wants to end "open-door immigration."
By Friday afternoon, the Tories were set to lose more than 250 seats, with UKIP gaining 110 new councilors and Labour another 200.
In South Shields, the Tories came in third behind Labour and UKIP in the special election to fill David Miliband’s vacated seat in Parliament.
“We have been abused by everybody, the entire establishment, and now they are shocked and stunned that we are getting over 25 per cent of the vote everywhere we stand across the country,” UKIP leader Nigel Farange told the BBC.
“This is a real sea-change in British politics,” he said.
Speaking to reporters in his home constituency in Oxfordshire, Prime Minister David Cameron was circumspect about his party’s drubbing at the hands of a group he once called the party of “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists.”
“Of course they should be subject and they will be subject to proper scrutiny of their policies and their plans,” he said. “But we need to show respect for people who have taken the choice to support this party and we are going to work really hard to win them back.”
Analysts viewed the vote as similar to election results elsewhere in Europe, where ruling governments have been punished by voters at the polls for economic problems and austerity measures.
"It is a traditional midterm protest vote and it’s found its lightning conductor through UKIP," Tony Travers, director of the government department at the London School of Economics and Political Science told The Associated Press.
UKIP said in its 2010 manifesto, "We aspire to ensure that any future immigration does not exceed 50,000 people per annum." A party spokesman said on Friday that the party's policy on immigration, which was one if its strongest selling points at the polls, is "under review."
The party's manifesto goes into detail about its policies, including a five-year freeze on immigration for permanent settlement until borders are controlled and its wish to leave the European convention of human rights and the European convention on refugees.