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Nigel Farage eyes seat in Commons after Ukip's big gains

By Sam Lister

Nigel Farage has warned the main parties in England and Wales he will "see them in Westminster" next year after Ukip scored significant victories in local elections.

With Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat recriminations in full swing, Mr Farage insisted he was already focused on translating his surge to the General Election – giving his strongest hint yet he will stand in a Kent constituency.

He also stressed that he would keep highlighting concerns about immigration despite accusations of racism, arguing it will be an "even bigger" issue in the contest next May.

The combative words came as David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg counted the cost of a bruising night at the polls, with potentially more difficult European Parliament results to come on Sunday night.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have already lost hundreds of councillors as Ukip shouldered its way into "bellwether" parts of Essex like Basildon.

The Prime Minister dismissed calls from some backbenchers for a pact with Mr Farage, and conceded he needed to convince voters he had "answers" on the immigration.

Mr Miliband is facing the most serious questions after Labour failed to make the sort of gains to suggest he can get a parliamentary majority next year.

The party performed strongly in London, taking control of Hammersmith and Fulham, and had other notable successes including Cambridge and Crawley.

However, it did not secure key councils such as Swindon and was prevented from taking charge in its number two parliamentary target seat, Thurrock, by the Ukip advance.

Nerves have been heightened further by strong progress for Mr Farage in traditional Labour heartlands including Rotherham.

According to projections with most councils declared, Labour did achieve the highest vote share with 31% – but its 2% advantage over the Conservatives would not be enough for outright victory in May.

Backbenchers Graham Stringer and David Lammy were among those breaking ranks to voice criticism of the leadership, after a difficult campaign that featured a number of perceived gaffes by Mr Miliband.

Mr Stringer condemned "unforgivably unprofessional" organisation, while former minister Mr Lammy accepted the party should have done better and warned that voters were "swallowing" Ukip's message on immigration and Europe.

Mr Clegg also blamed a "very strong anti-politics feeling" among voters – making clear he would not be resigning to take responsibility for the collapse in his party's support.

Mr Farage said he expected Ukip to end up with "double" the 80 gains that many had suggested would be a good result – and predicted it would come top in the European elections.

Belfast Telegraph


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