Britain’s political landscape was set for a big shake-up on Friday after the ruling Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition and the opposition Labour party were routed in local elections by an upstart United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in a massive protest vote against the national political establishment.
The Labour, however, had the satisfaction of retaining its parliamentary seat vacated by former Foreign Secretary David Cameron who stepped down recently to take up a job in America.
The anti-immigrant and Europhobic UKIP, which Prime Minister David Cameron once contemptuously dismissed as a party of “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”, declared itself the “official opposition” after making stunning electoral gains at the expense of all the three main parties, but mostly the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.
UKIP’s feisty leader Nigel Farage said the results revealed a “total disconnect” between the mainstream national parties and ordinary people on the streets.
“UKIP is actually speaking the language of millions of ordinary voters,” he said.
“We’ve been abused by everybody, attacked by the entire establishment who did their best to stop ordinary decent people going out and voting UKIP, and they have done in big, big numbers,” he told Sky News.
As results for elections to 27 English county councils were announced, with the Tories losing some of their supposedly safest strongholds ahead of the next general elections barely two years away, Mr. Cameron tried to put up a brave front saying voters liked to punish governing parties between elections.
But the party chairman Grant Shapps was more contrite.
“We hear the message, we get it, we understand what people are saying,” he said.
Labour admitted it was a “wake-up call”.
“We should listen very seriously if people are feeling disaffected and disenchanted,” said its deputy leader, Harriet Harman.