Conservatives suffer in UK local votes

2013-05-03 13:35
David Cameron. (AFP)

David Cameron. (AFP)

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London - David Cameron's Conservative Party has taken a beating in local elections amid a surge of support for an anti-European Union and anti-immigration party, heaping pressure on the prime minister to shore up support ahead of the next general election.

The early results on Friday show that the right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party, or UKIP, won 42 county council seats, while the opposition Labour Party gained 26. The Liberal Democrats - junior partners in Britain's coalition government - were down 16 county council seats, while Cameron's ruling Conservatives lost 74 seats.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage - whose party Cameron once referred to as a bunch of "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists" - said the results will send a "shock wave" through the British political establishment.

"This is a real sea-change in British politics," Farage told the BBC.

The rise of UKIP adds to pressure on Cameron to staunch a flow of voters from his party ahead of the next general election in 2015 and to take a harder line on European reform and immigration.

The results could lend momentum to voices within Cameron's party urging the prime minister to introduce legislation needed to enshrine his pledge for a referendum on European Union membership by 2017.

Michael Fabricant, the Conservative Party's vice-chairperson, confessed he was unsure what voters were saying. "'I hope there will be some serious research about exactly WHAT message UKIP voters are giving: none-of-the-above, or specific issues," he said in a Twitter message.

Voting took place in 34 council contests across England, plus the Isle of Anglesey in Wales.

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