“Nigel Farage promised an electoral earthquake, and he has delivered one,” says Matthew Goodwin in The Guardian. In just a few years, he has “led a party of amateurs out of the wilderness to win a national election”.
Ukip gained ten new MEPs in the European Parliament elections and finished by taking 27.5% of the vote and 23 MEPs; Labour took 25.4%, narrowly ahead of the Tories on 24%. “To find an election where a party other than the Conservatives and Labour received the highest share of the national vote, you would need to go back to 1906.”
Farage wants to use the results as a “springboard to mount a serious challenge” in next year’s general elections in the belief he could end up holding the balance of power in a hung parliament, says James Kirkup in The Daily Telegraph.
Ukip’s success in the local elections certainly has potential to “cause chaos” in 2015, say Robert Ford and Ian Warren in The Daily Telegraph. “The real currency of elections is not voters, but seats.” Ukip now have more than 300 councillors.
In many seats, Ukip activists can now argue that they are “the dominant force in local elections, and a strong presence on the council. That will help convince voters that returning a Ukip MP is a logical progression, not a leap into the unknown”.
A “grand realignment of politics” is not imminent, says Janan Ganesh in the FT. Those who are “implacably set against the political mainstream” may vote Ukip in 2015 or not vote at all, but “there is another kind of Ukip supporter, aggrieved but pragmatic, who will end up reluctantly backing the Tories”. Cameron’s job now is to “avoid losing credibility by actively chasing these waverers”.
This “sounds complacent, but it goes with the grain of recent history”. In the 2009 European election, Ukip won 17% of the vote; a year later, it “scraped” 3% in the general election.
“Given the chance of a harmless rebellion, voters took it. Burdened with the task of choosing a government, they got serious.” Neither Britain, nor the laws of politics are “all that volatile”.
The “disenchantment with the mainstream” is unarguable, and politicians should address it rather than stick their heads in the sand, says Allister Heath in The Daily Telegraph. “There is no doubting the scale and historic nature of the shift within British society,” of which Ukip’s recent electoral triumph is the “most striking manifestation”.
A substantial minority believes that Britain is “going to the dogs” for many different reasons, including immigration; the EU’s “never-ending undemocratic power grab”; distrust of MPs; frustration with both abuses and failure to deliver of our welfare state; anger at the City, banks and large multinationals; rocketing house prices; the rising costs of living and low interest rates that are continuing to punish savers.
This is an opportunity for “genuinely radical action”: to reform the UK’s political institutions, to kick-start economic growth in poorer regions, and to find a new model for our membership of the EU.