Nigel Farage, the leader of the right-wing, anti-immigration and anti-European Union UK Independence Party (UKIP), told The Daily Beast's Nico Hines three weeks ago that that his party was about to cause the “biggest political earthquake in 100 years.”
Many at the time dismissed his remarks as the typically outrageous and attention-seeking grandstanding of a loudmouth political minnow—but today, Farage appears to have done exactly what he predicted. The British political establishment is reeling this morning after local elections in the UK swept UKIP to power in hundreds of local, town and city councils across the country.
The moment is being dubbed “Farage Friday”.
The radical group, which has no MPs in Parliament and has been likened to a British Tea Party, could win a staggering 200 council seats by the time all the votes are counted, almost double the number it had hoped to gain in its most optimistic projections, as voters turned on the three established political parties in the UK.
The buoyant party leader, Nigel Farage, said today that the results showed that UKIP would be “serious players” in the general election next year saying, “The UKIP fox is in the Westminster henhouse.”
The results suggest that Farage and UKIP—famously dismissed by Prime Minister David Cameron as “loonies, fruitcakes and closet racists”—may well achieve their larger goal of topping the poll when results of the elections to the European parliament, which also took place yesterday, are revealed on Sunday and Monday.
The shock waves of Farage’s victory are likely to be felt well into next year, as the party can now realistically hope to leverage its political presence on local councils to win its first seats in the all-important national parliament in the general election, due to take place next year.
Farage said, “There are areas of the country where now we have got an imprint in local government. Under the first-past-the-post system [the voting method used in British general elections] we are serious players.”
By 6 a.m. on Friday, with 100 of the 172 councils up for election in England and Northern Ireland still to declare, the Tories had lost 93 seats, Labour gained 74, the Lib Dems lost 72, Ukip gained 84, the Greens gained one and other parties were up seven.
As the main parties were left reeling about how to respond to the UKIP threat, with just a year to go until the general election, some Tory MPs defied the party leadership to call for a pact with UKIP in 2015.
North East Somerset MP Jacob Rees-Mogg told the BBC: "With the promise of the referendum, the Conservative party and UKIP are moving in exactly the same direction—offering the British people a final decision on whether we have continued membership of the EU. That surely pushes towards a coupon of some kind."