European Elections: UKIP's chances in the South East

Nigel Farage Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Nigel Farage claims to represent the "biggest threat to the political establishment" in modern times

It's just four weeks until May's European elections which will be the last big electoral test for all the parties ahead of next year's General Election.

They will be a key test for the South East MEP and UKIP leader Nigel Farage. He used his conference speech earlier this year to tell activists that his party could top the polls in May's European elections.

Mr Farage claims his party represents "the biggest threat to the political establishment" in modern times.

It's a bold claim but if there is anywhere that his prediction is likely to come true it appears to be in the South East.

The statistics are very interesting. The election results for the last European elections in 2009 saw the Conservatives top the polls in 22 out of 23 of the South East's local authority areas.

The only area they didn't come first was Brighton and Hove, where they came second to the Greens.

But, the other striking statistic is that in 19 of the 23 local authority areas UKIP came second to the Conservatives.

'Sobering reading'

UKIP's strongest performance was in Adur where they polled 25% of the vote, compared to the Conservatives 30% share.

They also polled very well in Thanet, receiving 24% of the vote, compared to the Conservatives 30%.

In 14 of the 23 seats Labour failed to reach double figures, polling just 5% in Eastbourne, against UKIP's 21%.

For the Liberal Democrats - the most pro-EU of all the parties - the figures also make sobering reading.

They polled highest in Lewes with 23% - coming second to the Conservatives on 27% and beating UKIP, who polled 19%. They also did well in Eastbourne - with 21% of the vote, joint second with UKIP.

In most other areas they came third.

Most worrying for them is where they were pushed into 4th or 5th place.

Image caption The make-up of the European parliament after the 2009 elections

In Brighton and Hove, the Greens came top and with the Lib Dems in fifth place, possibly paying the price for that success.

They also came in fifth - behind the Greens in Dartford, Gravesham, Hastings, Swale and Thanet.

'Political earthquake'

Of course, if, as they say a week is a long time in politics, five years - since the last European elections - is a very long time indeed.

Since then the Conservatives and Lib Dems have spent almost four years in coalition government. Labour has spent four years in opposition and UKIP has emerged as a real political force.

At least year's local elections UKIP was the big story of the night and did better than they dared predict. They gained 139 councillors and beat the Lib Dems into fourth place.

The European elections will be a key test - the parties in government can expect to be given a tough time from voters a year away from the General Election.

UKIP is widely predicted to improve on its 2009 performance.

Voters will have until 22 May to decide whether UKIP really can deliver a political "earthquake" as promised by its leader.

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