Eurosceptics beat British PM's party into third place in by-election
The eurosceptic UK Independence Party received a boost ahead of European polls in May by beating British Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives into third place in a by-election, results showed Friday.
The opposition Labour party comfortably won the election in Wythenshawe and Sale East in northwest England, receiving 55 percent of ballots in a vote triggered by the death of Labour MP Paul Goggins, who had represented the area since 1997.
But the anti-EU, anti-immigration UKIP -- whose leader Nigel Farage said the election campaign was "as dirty as they come" -- polled second with 18 percent, ahead of the Conservatives who won 15 percent of the vote.
The Liberal Democrats of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the junior partner in the coalition government with the Conservatives, got just five percent and lost their deposit for the ninth time since the last general election in 2010.
Turnout was just 28 percent.
Cameron denied the result was a breakthrough for UKIP, who are seeking to increase their tally of nine European members of parliament in elections in May, and to win their first seat in the British parliament in the next general election in May 2015.
"Obviously, one would prefer to come second rather than third, but I don't think this is a particularly surprising result in Labour holding this seat," Cameron told ITV.
"I don't think it was the sort of breakthrough that people were talking about."
Farage said the result represented "really good solid, steady progress".
UKIP also beat the Conservatives into third place in another by-election in February 2013 in Eastleigh, southern England.
An ICM poll published in the Guardian newspaper on Monday put Labour in the lead for European elections on 35 percent with the Conservatives second on 25 percent and UKIP on 20 percent with the Liberal Democrats on nine percent.
Cameron has been forced to take a tough tone on Europe because of UKIP's growing popularity and due to the increasing strength of the eurosceptic wing in the Conservative Party.
Cameron has pledged to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU and then hold an in-out referendum in 2017, provided that he is re-elected next year.
© 2014 AFP