‘The people’s army are on the march’: ‘Over the moon’ Nigel Farage hails biggest ‘political earthquake’ in a century as UKIP humiliate every other party and plunge Lib Dems into leadership crisis

Ukip leader NIgel Farage, at the South East count in Southampton, hailed his party's victory as the most extraordinary result in British politics for 100 yearsDaily Mail – by Matt Chorley

Nigel Farage today declared that his ‘dream has become a reality’ after UKIP stormed to victory in the European elections.

With 10 regions declared, UKIP has won more than 27 per cent of the vote, securing 23 MEPs, leaving Labour and the Tories to battle it out for second for the first time in 100 years.

Mr Farage said he was ‘over the moon’ and predicted that Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg could be forced to quit after losing 11 of his 12 MEPs, despite pitching the Lib Dems as a the ‘party of in’.   

Labour leader Ed Miliband will also come under pressure, after only narrowly beating the Tories while David Cameron faces renewed calls from some of his own MPs to strike an election pact with UKIP.

With only Scotland and Northern Ireland left to declare, UKIP has 23 MEPs, up 10 since 2009.

Labour and the Tories both have 18 seats in Brussels, with Labour narrowly ahead on vote share – 25.4 per cent to 23.94 per cent.

Support for Ukip has surged by more than 12 per cent, outstripping a more modest boost in votes for Labour, while the Lib Dems faced near-wipeout, slipping into fifth place behind the Greens.

Mr Farage said he was ‘proud’ of the campaign which has seen him humiliate the Westminster parties, pushing Labour and the Tories into second and third.

On a dramatic political night:

  • The Lib Dems clung on to just one MEP – in the South East – as it faced wipeout elsewhere
  • Labour only narrowly beat the Tories after failing to make progress in key areas where they must win at the general election
  • The BNP lost its place in Brussels, as leader Nick Griffin conceded defeat
  • David Cameron rejected local electoral deals with Ukip at next year’s general election, as he dismissed Mr Farage’s image as a ‘normal bloke down the pub’
  • Mr Farage hailed the first election triumph for a minor party in more than 100 years
  • Across Europe, far-right and Eurosceptic parties swept to victory in many countries

As Ukip was triumphing in the UK, across the Channel France’s far-right National Front was on course for a massive victory in European elections tonight as the country swung behind its anti-immigration, anti-EU agenda.

UKIP appears to have eaten into the support of all the main parties, although the Tory vote seems to be more resilient in some areas, down only four per cent before London and Scotland were declared.

Mr Farage said: ‘Never before in the history of British politics has a party that will be seen to be an insurgent party ever topped the polls in a national election.

‘We go on surprising people. I am delighted with the way the campaign has gone. It has been a pretty remarkable journey.

‘We have formed the people’s army to fight the establishment. I love Europe, it’s the European Union I have a problem with.’

Confirmed as an MEP in the South East region, Mr Farage added: ‘This is just about the most extraordinary result in British politics in 100 years.’

UKIP’s victory in the polls is the first time a national election had not been won by either the Tories or Labour party since 1906, and raise doubts about either party’s hopes of securing an overall majority next year.

Labour strategists had been clinging to the hope that their party could yet edge victory, with some polls having narrowed in the closing stages of the campaign.

But the Tories pushed Mr Miliband’s party into third before the London result was announced.

No opposition has gone on to win a general election has failed to top the European Parliament polls.

‘My dream has become a reality,’ Mr Farage told the BBC. ‘The British people have stood firm, they have backed Ukip and we have won a national election. I’m over the moon.’

‘My dream has become a reality,’ Mr Farage told the BBC. ‘The British people have stood firm, they have backed Ukip and we have won a national election. I’m over the moon.’

While jubilant UKIP celebrated its stunning victory, the Lib Dems were plunged into fresh turmoil with Mr Clegg clinging to his job.

His high stakes gamble to take on Mr Farage in two head-to-head TV debates has dramatically backfired.

Pitching the Lib Dems as the true voice of pro-EU politics in Britain, Mr Clegg saw his MEPs wiped out in almost every region in the country.

The Lib Dems won 11 MEPs in 2009, and gained another through a defection.

But just Catherine Bearder held her seat in the South East, making her the only Lib Dem in Brussels when they previously had 12.  Lib Dem grandee Sir Graham Watson also lost his seat in the South West, with the Green party taking his place.

Mr Clegg’s position now looks precarious, after around 250 Lib Dems – including candidates and ex-MPs – signed a letter calling for him to resign.

But ahead of tonight’s results the party leadership told its members to prepare to lose most – if not – all of their seats.

In the popular share of the vote the Lib Dems slumped to just 6.87 per cent, barely half what it achieved in 2009.

Lib Dem president Tim Farron said the results were ‘as bad as I feared’ as it faced losing all of its MEPS.

Treasury minister Danny Alexander added: ‘It has been a pretty awful night for the Liberal Democrats.’

But other Lib Dems said the time has come for Mr Clegg to go.

Martin Tod, a member of the party’s federal executive, accused the leadership of complacency in the face of another dire set of results.

‘I’m just really concerned that if we stay with Nick and we stay with the current strategy, that we will get the result that this year has told us we will get in next year’s general election,’ he told the BBC.

While MEPs are elected by region, a breakdown of early results from council areas put UKIP top in Eastleigh, South Somerset, Bournemouth, Vale of Glamorgan, Thurrock, Tendring, Mansfield, Rotherham, North West Leicestershire, Basildon and North East Lincolnshire.

Ukip’s Roger Helmer said the party had topped the poll in Newark, where he will fight a Westminster by-election next month.

He told Sky News: ‘Britain is sending a hugely powerful message to the political classes tonight and I think Newark will relish the opportunity of reinforcing that message on Thursday week.’

A strong showing in the nationwide Euro elections vote will be seen as vindication after weeks of deeply damaging headlines and accusations of racism, sexism and homophobia aimed at UKIP candidates.

However, Mr Farage was forced to reject the idea that UKIP MEPs would site in Brussels with far-right groups like the French National Front.

Exit polls in France put it on an historic 25 per cent of the vote – a full 11 percentage points higher than the ruling Socialists.

Marine Le Pen, the Front National (FN) party leader, heralded a ‘historic victory’ in which ‘the sovereign people of France have spoken loud and clear’.

Early estimates suggested the number of Eurosceptic MEPs in Brussels could double.

In Denmark, the anti-immigration far-right People’s Party is on course to win with 23 per cent while in Hungary, the extreme-right Jobbik – accused of racism and anti-Semitism – was running second

Elsewhere, in Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats were expected to secure victory with 36 per cent of the vote.

In Greece, the poll was topped by the radical left anti-austerity Syriza movement, beating the governing New Democracy into second place.

In the UK, immigration dominated much of the campaign, with UKIP arguing proper border controls were not possible while in the EU.

The Tory promise of an in-out referendum, if Mr Cameron is PM in 2017, has failed to prevent the loss of support to UKIP.

Eurosceptic Conservative MPs said the results from across Europe proved their point.

Harwich and Essex MP Bernard Jenkin wrote on Twitter: ‘Some of us who opposed Maastricht 20 years ago predicted it would lead to the rise of the right in the EU: and here we are.’

Douglas Carswell, the Clacton MP, said: ‘So maybe those of us who sometimes banged on about Europe were on to something?’

Foreign Secretary William Hague said Brussels had to acknowledge the ‘deep disillusionment and deep dissatisfaction’ of voters across Europe.

He told the BBC he believed that Ukip’s support would switch for next year’s general election: ‘They can have a free hit , they can have a vote that does not have the consequence of bringing the wrong government in.

‘So it is very different to a general election.’

In an embarrassment for Labour leader Ed Miliband, Ukip even topped the poll in Doncaster, where he is an MP.

Ukip had 35 per cent of the vote, up 19 points on 2009. Labour were pushed into second on 34 per cent.

After gaining more than 160 council seats in England on Thursday, Mr Farage declared that the ‘UKIP fox is in the Westminster hen house’.

Mr Cameron faced embarrassment on polling day when new figures showed net migration hit 212,000 in 2013, more than double his target of reducing it to the ‘tens of thousands’.

Home Secretary Theresa May today insisted it remained a target, but would be ‘more difficult’ to meet by the general election.

She blamed ‘heated’ conversations with the Lib Dems in the coalition for failing to make more progress on immigration curbs.

In an attempt to win over disaffected voters who have backed to Ukip Tory ministers are preparing a series of measures to limit EU immigration and ‘benefit tourism’, as well as a fresh push to get a referendum Bill into law.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond claimed most people who voted UKIP last week were ‘lender voters’ who would switch back to the Tories for the General Election next year.

He told Sky News that the Government needed to address ‘specific concerns about immigration and about Europe’.

In Thursday’s local elections UKIP made gains across the country, depriving the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems of seats and overall control of major authorities.

Even before the Euro result was announced, Mr Cameron, Mr Miliband and Mr Clegg have been forced to defend their policies and explain how their plan to tackle UKIP in future.

Meanwhile Mr Cameron has been urged by influential Tory MP David Davis to bring forward his promised EU referendum by a year to 2016 in a bid to persuade defectors to UKIP he is serious.

Chancellor George Osborne said he and David Cameron were ready to ‘respond to the anger justifiably felt with answers’ to concerns about issues such as immigration and welfare.

Accepting that the latest results were likely to make more uncomfortable reading he conceded that ‘too many people who share our values did not feel able to vote for us’.

He dismissed calls from some eurosceptic backbenchers for an electoral pact with UKIP.

Labour won more than 300 extra seats in the local elections, but failed to secure progress in some target areas because of a surge by UKIP.

Mr Miliband will next week visit the scene of one of the party’s biggest disappointments, Thurrock, in Essex, number two on its Westminster target list, where it actually lost control of the council.

Scramble to save Clegg: Lib Dem grandees versus angry activists

Lib Dem grandees today launched a fightback to save Nick Clegg’s job after the leader saw his party almost wiped out the European elections.

In region after region, support for the Lib Dems collapsed, leaving the party with just one MEP in the whole country.

As the scale of the bloodbath became clear, there were fresh calls for Mr Clegg to quit.

Party members, activists, councillors and would-be MPs fear that their key messages to voters are being damaged by Mr Clegg remaining as the messenger.

Senior figures in the party called for calm in an attempt to keep Mr Clegg in place.

Allies of Mr Clegg today sought to rally support for the embattled leader, claiming it would be ‘absolutely foolish’ to attempt to replace him now.

Former leader Lord Ashdown told BBC’s Sunday Politics the idea of replacing Mr Clegg is ‘just about the silliest idea I have heard in my political career’ and ‘would damage the party forever’.

Sir Menzies Campbell, another former leader, tld the BBC: ‘There’s no doubt whatsoever in my mind that Nick Clegg is the person with the courage and the resilience to take the party through to and during and indeed after the next general election.

‘I think there is a serious risk… of us dipping into six weeks or perhaps even three months of damaging introspection.’

The Lib Dems lost more than 300 council seats and control of two flagship councils – Portsmouth and Kingston-upon-Thames.

Their share of the vote slumped to 13 per cent, suggesting the party could lose at least 20 MPs in 2015.

Now around 250 party members, including some candidates and former MPs, have signed an online letter demanding a change of leader.

Ex-MP Sandra Gidley said Mr Clegg was tainted by his position in the Tory-led coalition.

‘It’s not easy to say this because Nick did a stonking job for us at the last election but I do not think he is the right face for the Liberal Democrats at the next election and many others sadly agree,’ she told Sky News.

Lib Dem MP John Pugh suggested that a dozen of his Commons colleagues had expressed doubts over whether Mr Clegg should continue at the head of the party.

MP John Pugh – while falling short of calling on Mr Clegg to go – described the local election defeats as ‘abysmal’ and said they were ‘mostly due to national unpopularity’.

‘The high command is in danger of seeming like generals at the Somme – repeatedly sending others over the top while being safely ensconced in Westminster and claiming the carnage is all somehow sadly inevitable,’ he told the BBC.

Colleague Adrian Sanders, who represents Torbay, said: ‘The problem is the messenger, very few people say it’s the message.’

But part president Tim Farron – seen as a future leadership contender – appealed for an end to ‘absolutely foolish’ calls for Mr Clegg to quit.

‘Nick Clegg should undoubtedly stay and the Liberal Democrats should stay the course in Government,’ Mr Farron said.

‘There will be lots of people who are bruised by the results. I have lost elections before and it is miserable, and I also understand why these people will feel that the message that they got back on the doorstep, that they don’t like us being in government and so on, is a really difficult one.

‘But I just think, at this time, it would be absolutely foolish for us as a party to turn on ourselves.’

Business Secretary Vince Cable is being seen as an interim leader to take charge if Mr Clegg is ousted.

But supporters of Mr Clegg believe the organised attempt to bring him down is the work of a small number of people who believe this could be Mr Cable’s last chance for a shot at being leader.

In Thursday’s elections, the Tories took charge of Kingston Council – the back yard of Energy Secretary Ed Davey – and the Lib Dems lost control in Portsmouth following gains by UKIP.

As the scale of the losses became clear, Mr Clegg said he would ‘absolutely not’ resign, and insisted the Lib Dems were still succeeding where they focused on their achievements in coalition.

Two would-be MPs have signed the online LibDems4Change campaign.

Jackie Porter, who is set to fight the Tory-held target seat of Winchester in next May’s General Election, said the party was ‘not going forward with a clear strategy’.

The county councillor said the party’s achievements were overshadowed because Mr Clegg ‘allowed himself to be portrayed as just another pea out of the same pod’ as David Cameron and Ed Miliband.

The open letter says: ‘We consider it vital that at the 2015 General Election the party should be led by someone who will receive a fair hearing about our achievements and ambitions for the future.

‘It is clear to us that this person is not you, as the loss of so many of our hard-working councillors highlights.’

If Mr Clegg refuses to quit, a leadership contest could be triggered if 75 local party associations formally demanded one, or if a majority of the parliamentary party approved a no-confidence motion.

Miliband urged to promise in-out referendum to win 2015 election

Ed Milibandis facing calls from his own party to promise an EU referendum, as senior Labour figures waned a general election victory is not ‘in the bag’.

Labour only narrowly beat the Tories in the European elections, thanks to a strong showing in London.

But across the country the two parties were neck and neck, with critics warning securing 25 per cent of vote share was the worst result for an opposition party at a Euro election.

However, Mr Miliband today remained upbeat, insisting he was making progress in his bid to become Prime Minister next year.

He told the BBC: ‘We won the local elections. We beat the Tories in the European elections. These elections show Labour making progress.

‘I think we did well for a party that in 2010 got one of its worst shares of the vote ever.’

However, he faced renewed criticism of his leadership style and election strategy from within his own ranks.

Graham Stringer, MP for Blackley and Broughton, said promising an in-out referendum was the ‘minimum’ response required to the poll in which Labour narrowly beat the Conservatives into third place.

He told the BBC: ‘While these elections were about Europe and there was certainly some protest vote, there were also some people voting against the direction this country is going in Europe.

‘Unless we have a policy response to that, which has to be as a minimum to give people a referendum, then we are going to lose votes.

‘It is a very unattractive policy to say vote for us but we can’t do anything about your major concerns because Europe won’t let us. So I think we have to improve our offer on Europe. We can’t just keep saying this has been a major wake-up call.’

Bassetlaw MP John Mann wrote on Twitter that the Labour party would ignore Ukip at its ‘peril’, adding: ‘Labour drew false comfort before 1992 ‘just one more push’. It would be foolish to repeat that error.’

The weekend papers will have made for grim reading, reporting members of Mr Miliband’s frontbench team calling their leader ‘damaged goods’, ‘weird’, ‘a problem’ and claiming ‘he has got to go’.

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna acknowledged that next year’s vote was not ‘in the bag’ for Labour and said the party – which has been accused by some activists of failing to confront the Ukip threat – must now take the debate with Mr Farage’s party ‘seriously’.

‘If we had a general election tomorrow, would it be in the bag? No, of course it wouldn’t be in the bag,’ Mr Umunna told Today.

‘I believe absolutely we can win the next general election, I believe absolutely that this time next year, Ed Miliband can be our prime minister, but we approach these elections with humility.’

Urging Labour to engage in the debate with Ukip, Mr Umunna said: ‘This general election will not just be about policies, it will be about values and what you believe in as a country.

‘Do we want to be a country that turns in on itself, that blames the other for all of our problems and seeks to set different groups up against each other?

‘Or do we want to do what has made Britain great in the past and will make it great in the future, which is to make sure we give everyone a platform to achieve their dreams and aspirations, we hang together, we adhere to the great British values of tolerance and mutual respect for each other?

‘We’ve got to take Ukip seriously as a party and I welcome the chance to scrutinise and debate with them their policies and their values.’

Labour former cabinet minister Frank Field said the election result ‘poses big questions for the Labour leadership as a whole’ – complaining the party had been ‘silent’ on immigration.

Mr Field told the Sunday Telegraph: ‘UKIP poses a huge threat to us. We have got quite a lot to do.

‘The danger for Labour is that our supporters have been more affected by immigration than any other group in the country and we have been more silent.

Unless the right policies were found quickly then the Tories could win an overall majority in 2015, he suggested.

‘The greatest challenge UKIP poses is to Labour,’ he said.

‘If we are to win next year, it will be UKIP that becomes our main opposition. If we lose, after the country going through the worst recession ever, we could see part of our vote moving over permanently.

‘Our only line back is our policy review. Our review needs to present key policies that give us a new narrative that the centre-left voter wants to hear as opposed to what we want to tell them.

‘If this chance is lost, to realign what Labour stands for, the outlook is grim. We will open up the possibility of a clear Tory win next year. If that can’t concentrate our minds, I don’t know what will.’

In a surprise move, Mr Miliband will attempt to confront the party’s most prominent failure by returning to the campaign trail next week in a key seat where it lost control of the council.

In a surprise move, Mr Miliband will attempt to confront the party’s most prominent failure by returning to the campaign trail next week in a key seat where it lost control of the council.

A surge of support for UKIP in the Essex town of Thurrock – which is second on Labour’s 2015 target list – saw it take two Labour and three Tory seats and leave no party in overall control of the authority.

Thurrock had been hailed by Mr Miliband when the party took power there last year as evidence that the Opposition was ‘winning back trust, gaining ground’.

Despite winning more than 300 extra seats in the elections, the party failed to make the sort of advance in some key areas seen as vital to securing an overall majority in the Commons next year.

‘The local elections show Labour can win because it is our party which is winning where it matters in dozens of our target seats for the next election,’ Mr Miliband said.

‘From Cambridge to Redbridge, from Crawley to Amber Valley, people are electing Labour councils to meet their desire for change.

‘For too long, millions of people have felt locked out of our economy or let down and ignored by politics.

‘There is a deep sense of discontent with the way our country is run. I am determined to show people, including those who voted for UKIP, that we can change our country so they can build a better life for themselves and their family.’

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