Anti-EU party beats ruling Conservatives in UK polls

Fri Nov 30, 2012 4:18am EST
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LONDON (Reuters) - A British anti-EU party has polled more votes than the ruling Conservatives in two elections for parliamentary seats, in the latest sign that Prime Minister David Cameron's party faces a threat from the right.

The UK Independence Party, or UKIP, is enjoying a surge in popularity as some right-leaning voters become disillusioned with the ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition against a backdrop of persistent economic problems.

Results showed on Friday that, as expected, the main opposition Labour Party had comfortably won the three seats, Croydon North, Middlesbrough and Rotherham, that were up for grabs in by-elections on Thursday.

But the more striking result was that UKIP came second in both Rotherham and Middlesbrough, while the two coalition parties suffered a drubbing.

"Our previous best-ever by-election result, a fortnight ago, was 14.3 percent and this one is comfortably over 20 percent," UKIP leader Nigel Farage told the BBC in Rotherham in the early hours, after the results were announced.

"Whichever way you look at it, UKIP is on the rise."

The Conservatives came fifth in Rotherham, after Labour, UKIP, the far-right BNP and the far-left Respect. The Liberal Democrats came an embarrassing eighth, behind a local clergyman running as an independent candidate.

UKIP had enjoyed a boost in support during the Rotherham by-election campaign after the Labour-run local council caused an uproar by removing children from a UKIP-supporting foster family.

The council said it took the step because the children were from an EU migrant background while UKIP had long taken a very hostile position towards the European Union, but politicians from across the spectrum condemned the council's decision.   Continued...