UK & World News

  • 26 May 2014, 5:12

Farage Uses Victory To Call For Referendum

When he arrived at the Southampton Guildhall for the South East region count, Nigel Farage was mobbed like a rock star by TV crews from all over Europe.

By the time their leader delivered his victory speech, UKIP had already made major gains all over the country from the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

A jubilant Mr Farage told Sky News he wanted an in/out referendum on Britain's EU membership "next week", though at least he admitted that wasn't going to happen.

With most of the results in, UKIP's share nationally is about 27.5%, with Labour just ahead of the Conservatives on 25% to the Tories' 24%.

In another humiliation for Nick Clegg after the drubbing in the local elections, the Lib Dems were pushed into fifth place by the Greens, on just 7% to the Greens' 8%.

At one point during the night it looked as if the Lib Dems might be wiped out altogether, until a Green Party official at the Southampton count graciously told me their rivals for fourth place had kept one of their MEPs in the South East.

Catherine Bearder turned out to be the Lib Dems' sole survivor in the European Parliament. When I interviewed her immediately after the South East declaration she seemed shell-shocked.

She put the Lib Dems' disastrous performance down to people not understanding how the EU works. I suggested to her that they do - and they don't like it.

Shortly before the South East result was declared, I interviewed Daniel Hannan, the leading Tory MEP in the region. He called for a pact between the Conservatives and Europe.

What does David Cameron do now? He's planning yet another Immigration Bill in the Queen's Speech next week. But will that make any difference? It looks just like a gesture.

More concessions to Eurosceptic Tory MPs? An earlier referendum than the one the Prime Minister is proposing in 2017?

The PM is expected to shuffle his Cabinet and the lower Government ranks after the Newark by-election. Will that do any good? Almost certainly not.

The Conservatives will be relieved, once again, that Labour didn't do better in the European elections.

The grumbles that Mr Miliband is another loser like Neil Kinnock and is on course to lose in 2015 will grow louder inside the shadow Cabinet and on the Labour back benches.

These results do point to Labour falling short next year, as it did in 1987 and 1992 under Mr Kinnock.

The leader facing the most immediate leadership crisis is Mr Clegg, though. It seems very few voters - and a dwindling band of his MPs and activists "agree with Nick" these days.

Mr Cameron is almost certainly safe as Tory leader until after next year's general election.

But suddenly, MPs in all three parties are bickering and indulging in leadership speculation once again.

Rock star? UKIP may not be a new entry in the charts any more. But it has shot to Number One this weekend.

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