A political ‘earthquake’ shook the nation in the elections for the European Parliament on Thursday May 22.
The Euro-sceptic United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip) was the dominant party in East Sussex, a fact which played a significant role in its success in the South East constituency, where it secured four of the 10 seats up for grabs, making it the region’s top European representative.
Here Ukip, lead by Nigel Farage, topped local authority area polls for the European count in Hastings and Rother .
The star turn in the South East region, where turnout was 36 per cent, was undoubtedly Mr Farage, who retained his seat as well as helping to add two more to his party’s tally from the 2009 election.
A jubilant Mr Farage, who was elected along with Janice Atkinson, Diane James and Ray Finch, said the other major parties were: “Like goldfish that have just been tipped out of the bowl onto the floor, desperately gasping for air and clinging on to the comfort blanket that this is a protest vote.”
He continued: “This is an earthquake in British politics, it is a remarkable result and I think it has profound consequences for the leaders of the other parties.”
His party now has its sights on winning its first Westminster seat in the forthcoming by-election in Newark in Nottinghamshire.
Catherine Bearder is now the Liberal Democrats’ only MEP after a dismal night at the polls saw her party lose 10 seats in the Brussels parliament.
She said: “I’m delighted to be elected to represent the people of Sussex once again. It was a disappointing night and a bad result for the party but we knew that this election would be difficult.
“I’m truly sorry to have lost some excellent Lib Dem colleagues.
“It was always going to be difficult trying to overcome so many decades of anti-European sentiment but we do not regret it and remain proud of our principles.”
A spokesman for the Conservative Party, which saw three MEPs returned - Dan Hannan, Nirj Deva and Richard Ashworth - one less than 2009, said: “People have voted at these Euro elections as a way to send a variety of messages.
“People think that the EU is not working for Britain. That message is absolutely received and understood.”
Labour regained its seat with Anneliese Dodds taking over from MEP Peter Skinner who has stood down after 20 years.
The university lecturer said: “I’m honoured to have been elected as an MEP for the South East of England.
“I will spend the months to come making sure our region gets the best from Europe, and that the European Union is reformed so it focuses on the growth and jobs we desperately need in this region.”
It was a good night for the Green Party in the region, where Keith Taylor retained his party’s seat and saw them finish ahead of Lib Dems in fourth place.
He said, “I am honoured to have been re-elected as an MEP for South East England.
“At this election Greens offered voters hope, whilst others peddled fear and division.”