THEY promised to create an earthquake in politics and the first tremors have now been felt.
UKIP stormed to victory in the European elections, winning over many parts of the country, including Burton and South Derbyshire, where there was a strong show of support for the party everyone is talking about.
The region, in fact, turned out to be something of a UKIP heartland, with support being stronger in the East Midlands than anywhere else in the country - the party came out on top in South Derbyshire by more than 1,000 votes.
If the vote was replicated at next year’s general election, people in Burton and South Derbyshire would wake up the following morning to find themselves under the leadership of a UKIP MP – though the Conservatives, who secured majorities of around 7,000 in both areas in 2010, and Labour would be quick to say more people will turnout for the main vote, and those who backed UKIP in the European election might not be so eager put their faith in them when it comes to the Westminster vote.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage called it the most extraordinary election result for 100 years.
It was the first time in a century that a national election had not been won by with either Labour or the Tories, perhaps an indication of the level of disenchantment currently felt towards the ‘big two’.
But Labour, who finished runners-up, brushed off UKIP’s win, pointing to the fact they never came first in the European vote during the heady days of Tony Blair’s first term, so this result was nothing to get overly concerned about, while the Tories, though neck and neck with their main rivals as the votes were being counted in the Midlands, were again left to lick their wounds at the end of a bruising week.
As for the Liberal Democrats, they have faded into insignificance for the time being at least.
Where they may previously have relied on the protest vote in addition to those of genuine supporters, now they don’t even have that for comfort.
In the West Midlands, UKIP came first with a total of 428,010 votes, with nearest rival Labour scoring 363,033, with the Tories further back on 330,470.
Three UKIP members now make up three of the region’s seven MEPs, more than that of any other party.
In the East Midlands, UKIP received 368,734 votes, with the Tories in second on 291,270, closely followed by Labour, who received 279,363 votes.
Two UKIP members now make up the five MEPs, tied with the Conservatives.
Mike Green, Burton’s UKIP parliamentary candidate for 2015, said he would be campaigning hard over the next 12 months to convince voters he is the man to take the town’s seat in Westminster.
He told the Mail: “It was an amazing result for UKIP. It was just absolute proof that the whole of Burton is absolutely sick and fed up of the established parties.
“People have listened to our common-sense messages and are voting for us in their droves. I would particularly like to thank the people of Burton, where we beat all other parties. It really was a resounding victory and it is proof the people’s army is on the march.”
Newly elected UKIP West Midlands MEP James Carver couldn’t contain his delight.
He tweeted: “Absolutely delighted, but most humbled at being elected as one of three UKIP MEPs.”
Meanwhile, former UKIP member and West Midlands MEP Nikki Sinclaire said she was ‘disappointed’ to lose her seat in the European Parliament, but that ‘as a democrat’, accepted the decision of the electorate.
But what is it that has turned so many in Burton and South Derbyshire towards UKIP?
Around 30 voters gathered at a recent UKIP campaign meeting at Burton Town Hall, with many being attracted by promises on Europe, immigration while appreciating UKIP’s much publicised straight-talking approach.
Barry Martin, from Horninglow, is certainly convinced.
He said: “I’m right behind them. It’s fresh, people actually listening to the public. They will get seats in Westminster.”
Winshill resident Michael Carpenter said: “It’s not so much about immigration, it’s about uncontrolled immigration. Queen’s Hospital wouldn’t survive without foreign doctors, they are essential, but is about the unskilled and uncontrolled who are keeping young people out of work.
“Labour and the Lib Dems are worried about this party. I’ve voted for both and regretted it.”
John Lowdon, from Horninglow, a former member of the Labour Party, has been attracted by the promise of a referendum on Britain’s future in the EU.
He said: “A lot of people are going to vote for UKIP. They have got the answers to the questions. We live in a democracy, give us a vote on Europe.”
While many have doubted UKIP’s chances of similar success at the General Election, Mr Green said the result showed it was possible the party could overtake the Tories to steal Burton’s seat in 12 months’ time.
He said: “I have already started campaigning and I am going to do everything I can to make people vote for UKIP and make them understand that if they vote UKIP they get UKIP.”