LONDON — Britain’s populist United Kingdom Independence Party made sweeping gains in local elections and finished second in a parliamentary by-election, according to results announced Friday, shaking mainstream political parties, and claiming a “sea change” in national life.
Once scorned by Prime Minister David Cameron as “a bunch of fruitcakes, loonies, and closet racists,” the party, which wants Britain to leave the European Union and strictly control immigration, gained about a quarter of the vote in a series of votes around the country on Thursday, according to an initial count. The outcome was the party’s fourth electoral advance in six months.
“We have been abused by everybody, the entire establishment,” Nigel Farage, the Independence Party leader, told the BBC, “and now they are shocked and stunned that we are getting over 25 percent of the vote everywhere we stand across the country. This is a real sea change in British politics.”
The results were particularly alarming for Cameron’s Conservatives, who were pushed into third place in a by-election in South Shields, in northeastern Britain, after the resignation of Foreign Secretary David Miliband. The opposition Labor Party retained the seat, but with a reduced majority.
Farage warned his rivals that his supporters were not going away. “The people that vote for us are rejecting the establishment,” he said, castigating the “metropolitan elite” for failing to respond to what he depicted as Britons’ desire to retrieve British sovereignty from the European Union.