Osborne says 'respects' UKIP after British vote success
British finance minister George Osborne said Saturday he "respects" UKIP leader Nigel Farage as he said the Conservatives had to counter the "anger" that produced significant advances for the right-wing party in the local elections.
As the Conservatives face calls to make a pact with Farage's party at next year's general election, Osborne warned that voting for UKIP could hand power to the main opposition Labour party.
UKIP, he said, did not "have answers to the country's future".
Farage's party gained more than 120 seats in English councils in local elections Thursday and are widely expected to finish top when results from the European parliament vote are announced Sunday.
Farage has hailed the results as proof that his eurosceptic, anti-immigration party are "serious players".
Cameron once described UKIP members as "loonies and closet racists", but Osborne accepted that they could no longer be dismissed.
"We take very seriously the fact that people have voted UKIP. We respect that fact. We have to listen to people who voted UKIP. We have to listen to their anger and their anxiety," he told BBC radio.
Seizing on Farage's call for voters to use this week's elections to send a message to mainstream parties, Osborne said: "A general election is certainly not a 'free hit' -- people live with the consequences for years afterwards and there would be a very big difference between a Labour government and a Conservative government.
"The choice at the (general) election is do you want Ed Miliband and the Labour Party in Downing Street, or do you want David Cameron and the Conservatives in government?"
Despite UKIP's apparent success, BBC analysis of the results showed that the scale of the "earthquake" predicted by Farage is thrown into question by projections of national vote share which show that UKIP support had dropped since local elections last year from 23 percent to 17 percent.
© 2014 AFP