UKIP is denying claims from the major political parties that its success at the European elections will not be repeated next year.
With the countdown to the general election having begun in earnest, politicians of all colours are promising a battle royal when the nation goes to the polls.
Ukip claimed three of the six seats in Yorkshire and Humber after last week’s vote, gaining two MEP’s at the expense of the BNP and the Liberal Democrats.
Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope, from Knaresborough, held onto his seat, while Labour retained its two representatives in Brussels and Strasbourg.
Lib Dem Edward McMillan Scott was one of the casualties. He had stood at the last Euro election as a Conservative, but swapped sides.
Conservative leaders admitted they expected defeat, but insisted the party can win at the general election, with former Chairman of North Yorkshire County Council, councillor Bernard Bateman declaring Ukip’s success a protest vote.
“It was all about immigration, but, as chairman of the county council, I swore in 500 to 600 British Citizens. They were consultants, doctors, Ghurkas and quite a lot of business people. They were not coming here to live off the country,” he said.
“But we haven’t listened to what the electorate have been saying. I think we learn by what’s happened. We need to make sure people can vote on Europe. There is a lot of resistance, we got it on the doorstep.
“This was a protest vote, but UKIP have no policies. We are listening to what the people say and I think we will win the general election.”
Ukip spokesman, North Yorkshire County Councillor, Sam Cross, poured scorn on the Tory claims.
“This was not a protest vote, but a progress vote. We did fantastically well and people will stay with UKIP,” he said.
“People are moving forward. They have voted Ukip here and they will at the general election. We will be fighting all seats in North Yorkshire.
“We are fighting one battle at a time. This was all about Europe, we will be publishing our policies in September for the general election and we expect to do well.”
In the North-East, Ukip won one of the three available seats, with Tory, Martin Callanan, the biggest casualty.
Councillor Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council, said it was always likely that Ukip would find success in the region.
“Given that that their vote has increased it was always likely to be on the cards,” he said. “What you have seen in the North-East is the fairly dramatic collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote and obviously a slight decline in the Conservative vote, which has allowed Ukip to come in and take that seat.
“Given their success elsewhere I don’t think it is a surprise. But it is a European election and not a general election, so the Government of the country is not at stake and it is not always an accurate guide.
“The acid test for Ukip will be what happens next year.”