UK & World News

  • 26 May 2014, 4:26

European Elections: The Winner And Losers

UKIP stormed to first place in the European elections, becoming the party of choice for nearly a third of voters.

This is the first time since 1906 that a party other than the big two - Conservative and Labour - has topped the poll in a nationwide vote.

The first result, once again delivered by the North East region, gave a taste of things to come. 

Last time the region's three Euro seats were spread among the three established parties.

This time both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats lost their seats leaving Labour leading with two MEPs but UKIP picking its first seat of the night.

Across the region UKIP even finished ahead of Labour in four local authorities that are used to tally the European votes.

As more regions declared their results it became clear that UKIP was on course to finish on top in the popular vote.

It out-polled the Conservatives in the South East and South West, in the Eastern region where it has gained a real foothold at local council elections and also the East Midlands. 

In the West Midlands, in parliamentary terms a real battleground between the Conservatives and Labour it was UKIP that once again eclipsed the traditional parties.

Further evidence that UKIP has been instrumental in stalling Labour's progress came in the Yorkshire and Humber region. Here, UKIP finished first with 31% of the vote, a two-point lead over Labour in what is generally regarded as one of the party's strongest areas.

Compared with the last time voters selected MEPs in 2009 UKIP registered double-digit increases in vote share across every region to declare overnight. 

The biggest losers were the Liberal Democrats who endured an appalling time, following so closely upon extremely disappointing local election results.

The pro-European party lost all but one of its MEPs from the first nine of Great Britain's 11 regional constituencies to declare and were relegated to fifth place behind the Greens.

The pressure that had grown on Nick Clegg as the party watched its councillors defeated may grow yet further as his critics point to his decision to debate with Nigel Farage as a catalyst for the party's collapse.  

Although Labour gained seats it will again be subjected to the accusation that it is punching below its weight. Opinion polling suggested that it was vying with UKIP for first place but the results show a clear gap between the two parties.

Indeed, while Labour is likely to overtake the Conservatives in the national vote once the counting is completed in Scotland the gap between the two main parties will not be great.

The national projection of the local election voting placed Labour just one percentage point ahead of the Conservatives and the closeness of the Euro voting will add to the pressure on the Labour leadership.

Of course, the pattern of voting will be different at next year's general election. Many voters that backed UKIP this time will return to one or other of the major parties.

But Mr Farage has undoubtedly produced chaos and confusion among the established parties and no one can be sure at this point about the impact his party will have in less than a year's time.

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