Published: 13:00, 26 May 2014 |
Updated: 10:31, 27 May 2014
UKIP is expected to target several Kent seats in the general election after the party took a huge share of the European vote across the county.
A dramatic night saw Nigel Farage's party double their MEPs in the South East to four. The Conservatives now have three seats - down one - while Labour, the Lib Dems and Greens hold one each.
Now anti-EU UKIP is thought to be preparing to contest constituencies including Dover, Folkestone, Medway, Sittingbourne and Sheppey, as well as Thanet North and South in next year's national vote.
After leading a party to top the first national election not been won by the Conservatives or Labour in 100 years, a jubilant Mr Farage vowed: "You have not heard the last of us."
He also said if he stands as an MP next year it will be somewhere near the seaside in the south east - prompting speculation he will target his home county of Kent.
The success of UKIP in Kent - with the party coming top in many boroughs - comes after it made huge gains in Maidstone Borough Council's elections last week, with the Conservatives losing overall control.
First results saw UKIP gain 13,009 of the total 33,145 votes cast in Dover district, with the Conservatives second on 8,115. Labour gained 6,648 votes, Greens 2,128 and the Lib Dems 1,511.
The anti-EU party gained 41.7% of the vote in Medway, more than 12,000 ahead of the Conservatives in second. They won 27,265 votes, with the Conservatives on 15,043, Labour on 12,448, Greens on 3,684 and Lib Dems on 2,420.
Voters in Swale also were firmly behind UKIP with 14,125 votes - almost 5,900 above the Conservatives, with 8,236 votes. Labour polled 5,162 votes, followed by the Greens with 2,080 and the Lib Dems with 1,314.
UKIP also topped the poll in Canterbury by 3,000 votes. They polled 13,459 against the Tories' 10,068. Labour received 6,012 votes, the Greens 4,794 and the Lib Dems 3,031.
In Maidstone, UKIP came first with 15,977 votes, followed by the Conservatives with 12,450 and the Lib Dems with 4,846. Labour trailed in fourth place with 4,612 votes.
UKIP also topped the poll in Sevenoaks, although by a smaller margin. They took 11,873 votes, 800 ahead of the second place Conservatives. Labour were third on 3,349 with the Lib Dems on 1,993.
In Thanet, UKIP came top with 16,042 votes - more than double the Conservatives. Labour came third with 6,008 votes, with the Lib Dems pushed into fifth behind the Greens.
UKIP also took 35% of the vote in Tonbridge and Malling, with 11,360 votes - ahead of the Tories on 10,940, Labour on 3,660, the Greens on 2,240 and the Lib Dems on 1,995.
And it was a similar story in Ashford, with UKIP on 12,212 votes, the Conservatives on 9,492, Labour on 3,900, Greens on 2,373 and Lib Dems on 1,745.
The Conservatives took first place in Tunbridge Wells with 11,734 votes compared to UKIP's 9,567. Labour received 3,440 votes, Lib Dems 2,774 and Greens 2,699.
Overall, there was a turnout of 36.49% across the South East.
Mr Farage vowed to continue the party's efforts to take the UK out of Europe and predicted his party could hold the balance of power after the next general election.
"Who is to say what we can or cannot achieve?" he said. "It is not beyond the realms of possibility that we could hold the balance of power after the general election."
He predicted the results would result in one party leader resigning - or possibly two.
UKIP candidate Janice Atkinson, at the centre of controversy last week after giving a one fingered gesture to protesters in Ashford, was seen sipping champagne as the results came in.
Mrs Atkinson, whose son attends Maidstone Grammar School, said: "It is not just immigration that people are concerned about - it is more than that."
Amid the attention on UKIP, a bullish Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan told our reporter that the Tory vote "has held up reasonably well".
Anneliese Dodds, the newly elected Labour MEP, defended her party's campaign amid some criticism it did not take seriously the threat posed by UKIP.
"Unfortunately, we did not get the second MEP we hoped for and I think a big part of the reason for that was the way the vote divided among the other parties," she said.
"Ed Miliband is not a slick media player, but is someone who says what he thinks. He is talking about issues which affect people, but which have not been part of the media debate for some time."
Ms Dodds added Labour had made progress in key Kent target seats - although the breakdown suggests that the party is falling short of what it would need to retake constituencies it lost in 2010.
"We can always improve but we did do well in those areas we are targeting," she added.
It was a grim night for the Liberal Democrats in most of the country, but they managed to hold on to their one seat in the South East.
"People think they can vote for UKIP and it does not matter, but I am afraid it does. Europe is not going to go away. UKIP do not turn up to do the work, which means decisions are taken without any British interest."
Mrs Bearder added that UKIP support would dissolve when the general election was held.
"People use these elections as a protest vote. But we do need to look at how the media reports the EU. When it does, there is a lot of misinformation and scaremongering."
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