Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Labour's Northern Surge Can't Mask Its Failures Elsewhere; Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Labour's Northern Surge Can't Mask Its Failures Elsewhere; Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Linford

NEARLY a quarter of a century ago, a fringe party sent shockwaves through the political establishment after securing 15% of the popular vote in the 1989 elections to the European Parliament.

Alas for the Green Party, it could not sustain the momentum of its unexpected success, and by the time of the following general election in 1992, it had sunk back into relative political obscurity.

So the big question in the wake of this week's local elections is whether the UK Independence Party can succeed in 2013 where the Greens failed and achieve a lasting and significant political breakthrough.

Certainly the signs currently seem positive for Nigel Farage and his crew, who weathered a determined smear campaign by the big parties to emerge as the big winners of Thursday's poll.

In the North East, UKIP repeated its surprise second place at the Middlesbrough by-election last November by coming second to Labour in the South Shields contest to choose a successor to David Miliband.

While nobody expected the Conservatives to win here the result was little short of a humiliation for the Coalition parties.

Not only were the Conservatives beaten into third place by Farage and Co, the Liberal Democrats were beaten into seventh place by a ragtag and bobtail collection of independents and fringe parties, including the BNP.

It suggests that, unless they can somehow extricate themselves from the Coalition in time to re-establish themselves as an independent force, the Lib Dems are facing electoral wipeout in the region come 2015.

But while South Shields provided an interesting snapshot of the current state of opinion in the North East, UKIP's strong performance there was but a foretaste of what was to come across the rest of the country. When last I counted, the party had gained 139 councillors across England compared to a loss of 124 for the Lib Dems and 335 for the Tories.

The political impact was immediate, with a Tory Party that had earlier in the week attempted to brand UKIP as a bunch of racist clowns being forced to eat a very large slice of humble pie. …

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