Nigel Farage claimed victory in the European elections today, breaking a 108-year record as UKIP sent more MEPs than ever to Brussels.
The party topped the polls in the UK, and won three out of seven seats in the West Midlands based on its share of the vote as 428,010 voters backed it.
Farage hailed his party’s first win in a national election as an ‘earthquake’ in British politics.
Coming a year ahead of the General Election, it is the first time a party other than the Conservatives or Labour has topped a nationwide poll in 108 years.
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In the West Midlands Labour won two seats with 330,470 and the Tories got two with 330,470.
The Liberal Democrats lost their only MEP – along with all but one in the country – while two former UKIP MEPs, Mike Nattrass and Nikki Sinclaire, failed to hold the seats they were trying to win as independents with new parties they set up themselves.
Nationally, the Liberal Democrats were the biggest losers as Nick Clegg paid the price for his gamble to position the party as the natural opponents to UKIP’s Euroscepticism.
Mr Farage claimed victory, saying: “UKIP is going to win this election and, yes, that will be an earthquake because never before in the history of British politics has a party that will be seen to be an insurgent party ever topped the polls in a national election.”
In his acceptance speech after topping the poll in the South East , Mr Farage said: “The people’s army of UKIP have spoken and have delivered just about the most extraordinary result in British politics for 100 years.”
He said the party ‘bit very hard’ into the Labour vote in the north, almost topped the poll in Wales, gained a seat in Scotland and ‘we are genuinely a UK Independence Party’.
“You have not heard the last of us,” he said.
The Prime Minister’s party came third in many areas with UKIP topping the polls in areas with Tory MPs such as South Staffordshire, Stafford, Lichfield and Cannock Chase.
The party also did well in Walsall and Dudley, where it gained councillors on Thursday. But Labour won more votes in cities like Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton as well as in Sandwell. Jill Seymour, one of three new UKIP MEPs and a parish councillor in Shropshire, said: “Quite simply the British public is fed up of the same old rhetoric and spin. They are fed up of the same old repetitive lines from the Lib Lab Con.”
Conservative MEP Philip Bradbourn, who kept his seat, said: “They are a force to be reckoned with and we have to acknowledge that. We all do. They don’t just take votes from the Conservatives.
“There are a number of different factors, not least people feeling disaffected with politics.
“Over the past five years the things I have been working on have included preventing legislation coming through that would have had an adverse effect on business.
“There was going to be a law that would have cost hauliers £5,000 for every vehicle to fit equipment that was not necessary.” And Sion Simon, one of two Labour MEPs, elected this morning, said: “I haven’t stood for election because I’m interested in the European Parliament. I stood because I’m passionate about the West Midlands.
“We have three per cent fewer people employed than the rest of the country.
“This is about jobs, growth and investment.
“It’s about the economy and how a powerful institution can make a difference to people’s lives.”
Bill Etheridge, aged 44, also won a seat on Dudley Council in the local elections on Thursday, representing Sedgley.
He said he would do both jobs. “I won’t be spending all my time in Brussels. I’m going to be based in Sedgley,” he said.
“We’ve taken votes off everyone. People haven’t just lent us their vote. I hope they will continue to see that we are different to the mainstream parties that have let them down. We’ve won a surge in support, not just from the Tories but in Labour areas too,” he said.
James Carver is a new West Midlands UKIP MEP and Labour’s Neena Gill returns to Brussels five years after losing her seat. She said: “There have been some tremors. I’m not sure it was an earthquake. UKIP did better than many smaller parties have previously
“But people are struggling to make ends meet and find jobs. It’s very easy in the circumstances to say that’s someone’s fault and look for someone to blame. UKIP tapped into that discontent and exploited it.” Conservative Anthea McIntyre, who kept her seat, said: “UKIP winning seats damages the UK because they don’t speak for Britain. The Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems do all they can but UKIP doesn’t.”
The list of West Midlands winners is:
- Jill Seymour (UKIP)
- Neena Gill (Labour)
- Philip Bradbourn (Conservative)
- Jim Carver (UKIP)
- Sion Simon (Labour)
- Anthea McIntyre (Conservative)
- Bill Etheridge (UKIP)
Labour topped the poll in Birmingham, with UKIP coming second. In Telford and Wrekin it was the other way around. The Tories were third in both areas. In Cannock Chase UKIP won, with Labour in second and the Conservatives third. The Liberal Democrats came fourth with 710 votes. In Lichfield, normally a safe Conservative seat, UKIP also came first, beating the Tories 8,975 to 8,182. The same happened in solidly Conservative South Staffordshire, with UKIP gaining 11,076 votes to the Conservatives' 8,990. UKIP also won in Stafford, Shropshire and Wyre Forest, pushing the Tories into second place.
Labour comfortably won in Sandwell with 30,991 votes to UKIP's 20,776 and also topped poll in Wolverhampton.
Independent MEP Nikki Sinclaire conceded defeat at 10pm, before the results were announced. The 46-year-old was originally an MEP for UKIP in 2009 but left the party in a row over its grouping with 'extreme right wing' parties in the Brussels Parliament.
In a statement Miss Sinclaire said: "My supporters will be disappointed, and naturally I am too.
"It has been an honour and a pleasure to represent 5.2 million constituents over the past five years. I have met thousands of people in my role, getting involved in community projects and giving a voice to the voiceless, and lending an ear when others simply wouldn't listen.
"I'm also proud of the campaign we ran here in the West Midlands, far larger than anybody had ever seen before, and many thanks to those who spent time talking to me and the team on the campaign trail.
"More importantly, thank you to everybody who took the time to vote for me on Thursday and for those who have stood by me."
The Tories were defending three seats and retained two. Philip Bradbourn and Anthea McIntyre were re-elected while Dan Dalton failed to replace retiring MEP Malcolm Harbour. Labour improved upon the one member Ed Miliband's party had in the West Midlands. Michael Cashman is retiring and former MEP Neena Gill won her bid to return to Brussels five years after losing her seat. Former Erdington MP Sion Simon also successfully stood for Labour but former Stourbridge MP Lynda Waltho missed. The Liberal Democrats lost their only West Midlands seat, held by Phil Bennion. UKIP won two in 2009 but its MEPs Mike Nattrass and Miss Sinclaire had both since quit the party and formed their own Eurosceptic groups. They are each trying to defend their seats tonight.
But UKIP has replaced them as candidates with Shropshire-based Jill Seymour, a parish councillor in Kynnersley, Telford, and umbrella maker James Carver. New Dudley councillor Bill Etheridge, elected to Sedgley on Thursday, won the third seat for UKIP.
No European was country allowed to reveal anything until after polls have closed across the continent. Italy was still voting today so counts had to wait until polling stations there have been shut.
Turnout across the West Midlands was just over 33 per cent with less than 1.4m people voting out of an electorate of 4.1m.
Political Editor Daniel Wainwright tweeted from the count as it happenedSubscribe to our Newsletter