UK Politics

Eastleigh by election: UKIP's first MP will come, says Farage

Nigel Farage at a press conference with UKIP's candidate Diane James Image copyright PA
Image caption Nigel Farage is predicting even bigger successes for his party in the near future

Nigel Farage has said it is only a matter of time before the UK Independence Party gets an MP, after the party's best-ever result in the Eastleigh by-election.

He said there was a "clear trend" of growing support for his party.

UKIP came second in the Hampshire seat, with 28% of the total vote.

The UKIP leader also said he hoped to cause a "political earthquake" next year by getting the biggest share of the vote in European Parliament polls.

His party's candidate, Diane James, got 11,571 votes in Eastleigh, almost 1,000 more than Conservative Maria Hutchings in third. The Lib Dems retained the seat.

The Conservatives have argued the surge in support for UKIP was essentially a protest vote but Mr Farage said it had taken votes from all three of the largest parties and "really connected" with voters on a range of issues, not simply Europe.

'Political tremor'

Asked whether, given the Lib Dems' recent internal difficulties and concerns over the state of the economy, UKIP would never have a better opportunity to win their first Westminster seat, he said the strong performance was part of a clear trend.

"Never again can people say UKIP is a wasted vote, that we are splitting the vote, that somehow we can't win, because we have come ever so close to winning in this by-election," he told the BBC.

"In by-elections to come, we will achieve victories. This is just not some mid-term protest as David Cameron tries to say. This is a clear, defined trend."

Mr Farage said there was a "closed shop" mentality among the three main parties and much of the media about UKIP's rise.

The party was making progress because it was prepared to talk about issues - such as the link between EU membership and immigration - that others "brushed under the carpet".

He said UKIP should also be judged on its performance in May's local council elections and next year's Brussels elections - in which the party came second to the Conservatives in 2009 in terms of the popular vote.

The party - which performed disappointingly in last year's English council elections - needed to make a "breakthrough" at a local level, Mr Farage acknowledged, if it was to build a platform for national election victories.

And he said he would be disappointed if UKIP did not top the polls in the 2014 European elections, arguing that such an outcome would intensify pressure for a referendum on EU membership to be held this side of a general election.

"If what we saw last night was a political tremor, in the European elections we can cause an earthquake".

More on this story