UKIP's Nigel Farage hails 'steady progress' in local elections

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said the party had made ''good steady progress''

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage has hailed his party's "steady progress" in the local elections.

UKIP increased their vote share in England and Wales, although that failed to translate into many new seats.

They are averaging 13% of the vote in wards fought, which looks set to be their best local election performance when European Parliament elections have not been held on the same day.

The party have won five seats so far but have also lost five.

Their performance is thought to have cost the Conservatives votes in some areas, including Thurrock and Dudley - where Labour took control of the councils.

In the London Assembly elections the party got over 100,000 votes but failed to reach the 5% required to take a seat.

'Not just Conservatives'

Mr Farage told the BBC: "It's good steady progress and it reflects the last 18 months that our share of the vote is going up and up and up, very steadily, very surely.

"Yes, we are getting Conservatives voting for us but it is not just Conservatives because those results are the same in Labour seats as they are in Tory seats.

"We haven't quite got to the level where we are bursting through and winning seats in very large numbers.

Start Quote

We need to work out a strategy, certainly in the west country, for dealing with the issue of traditional voters shuffling off and voting UKIP ”

End Quote Gary Streeter Conservative MP

"We're winning some, we're getting very large numbers of seconds. If we continue this momentum, then next year and the year after we will start to win council seats in real numbers."

UKIP returned seven councillors, a gain of one. Gains in Thurrock, Rushmoor, East Lincolnshire and the Vale of Glamorgan were offset by losses in Dudley, Sefton and Plymouth.

Conservative MP Gary Streeter blamed defections to UKIP for his party losing control of Plymouth to Labour.

"We need to work out a strategy, certainly in the west country, for dealing with the issue of traditional voters shuffling off and voting UKIP because they don't think our leadership is Conservative enough," he said.

"The UKIP vote is not just about Europe," he added.

Ballot paper blunder

"It's also about a hard core of traditional Conservative voters saying, 'actually we don't like the kind of small 'l' liberal decisions this government is beginning to take - it offends our values and we're going to protest and vote UKIP."

Start Quote

We can only put our hands up and say sorry to voters who wanted to back us but couldn't find our name on the ballot paper”

End Quote Nigel Farage UKIP leader

UKIP, which wants the UK to leave the European Union, have traditionally performed poorly at local polls and Mr Farage has made it an objective to boost representation in local government.

They fielded a record 700 local election candidates and are attempting to broaden their message beyond their traditional anti-EU platform. They have pledged to cut council tax and build more grammar schools.

But an administrative error may have cost them votes in London, after their mayoral candidate Lawrence Webb, who came sixth, and candidates for the London Assembly were listed as "Fresh choice for London" rather than UKIP.

Mr Farage said the blunder, which came after nomination papers were filed incorrectly, probably meant large numbers of would-be UKIP voters might have assumed the party was not taking part in the ballot and so gave their vote to another party.

"We can only put our hands up and say sorry to voters who wanted to back us but couldn't find our name on the ballot paper," said Mr Farage.

"We hoped and expected to get two seats, but this has cost us dear. It is a lesson hard learned."

UKIP's better-than-expected performance came after a row between the party and the Conservatives over remarks appearing to link the UKIP's poll success to the decline of the BNP.

Conservative co-chair Baroness Warsi said it was "interesting" how an increase in the number of UKIP candidates had coincided with a drop in BNP candidates. This prompted claims from UKIP's chairman that the Conservatives were "very scared" of his party.

· All the latest election results are available at bbc.co.uk/vote2012

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