First Britain and now for Europe Ukip redraws the political map
Nigel Farage has what is certain to be a strong position in Brussels, and now he is turning to Westminster
Ukip had landed and, as if reacting to an invasion by aliens, the native tribes Labour, Tory and Lib Dem simply did not know how to react.
Nigel Farage had been expected to grab between 75 and 100 extra councillors at best, but added nearly 130. Labour MPs and activists, who had tried largely to ignore Ukip’s impending arrival as the fourth party in British politics, veered between admitting that it had been hit and that Ed Miliband had to do better, and trying to dismiss Ukip as still so small as to be largely irrelevant.
Confusion reigned throughout Friday across the new political landscape. The Conservatives, themselves damaged by the loss of more than 230 seats and 11 councils, said it was Labour that should be most worried, while the Lib Dems, down by more than 300 seats and two councils, said little.
Excuses and attempts to minimise Ukip’s surge piled up from all three establishment parties. Ukip, it was pointed out, had seen its national vote share fall six points compared with last year. Farage’s party had not done well in London. It had enjoyed so much media exposure that it had could hardly have failed to do well. All fair enough as arguments, but collectively inadequate as a response.
The most memorable verdict came from an elated Farage on Friday morning: “The Ukip fox has entered the Westminster henhouse.”
While it is true that Ukip’s share of the vote fell, it had, through clever targeting, made big strides into local government at the expense of the three main parties. It might control no councils but no one expected it to. What it accomplished was to make important inroads up and down the country and prove itself a danger not just to Tories but to Labour too. It has filled the gap left by the Liberal Democrats, who have vacated the position as the party of protest, having opted for government instead.
Toby Helm, political editor