Ukip surges ahead of Lib Dems

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THE UK Independence Party has surged to a record poll rating – knocking the Liberal Democrats back into fourth place

New figures puts Ukip on 14 per cent – a six-point gain on last month and the party’s highest ever rating in a ComRes poll.

The findings will alarm Tory MPs amid fears the party is haemorrhaging support over issues such as Europe, the economy and its support for gay marriage.

The poll put the Conservatives on 28 per cent, down three points from a month ago and 11 points behind Labour, which is down four on 39 per cent.

Support for the Lib Dems is down to single figures at just nine per cent, a one-point fall on the month before. ComRes interviewed 2,002 British adults online between December 12 and 14.

The figures come just weeks after Ukip’s strong showing in local by-elections, coming second in Rotherham and Middlesbrough and third in Croydon North, when the Tories showed poor results across the board. It indicated that not only was Ukip taking votes from the Conservatives, but it was also capable of making inroads into Labour’s heartlands.

Claims from Ukip leader Nigel Farage yesterday that his party had now replaced the Liberal Democrats as the “third force” in British politics were dismissed, however, by former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell.

He said: “How many councillors have they got? How many MPs have they got? If being ahead in the opinion polls was the sole judge, then you’ll remember the Liberal Social Democrat Alliance at one stage had over 50 per cent in the polls and it should have been the government by that logic. Well, obviously not.

“Ukip are clearly benefiting from some of the difficulties of the Conservative Party – this is an issue for the Tories rather than anyone else.”

Communities Secretary and former Bradford Council leader Eric Pickles said Ukip must be taken seriously but an electoral pact is not the way for the Tories to beat its candidates at the ballot box. He said the Conservatives could win back support from the eurosceptic party but only by engaging with it on local issues.

“I certainly don’t feel we should have a pact with them or it could be assumed – I think this is absolutely wrong – always assumed that some kind of deal would be done and people would flood back to us.

Mr Pickles added on gay marriage that politicians have to do “what is right”.

He said: “Mr Farage looks like he is on the make on this. It looks like he is doing something for political reasons to try and exploit what he sees as a split in our party. We are going to have a free vote. I used to feel like Mr Farage felt, I used to feel marriage was just for men and women. About a year or so ago, I changed my mind.

“I had seen constituents that had a civil partnership, I had seen friends in a civil partnership. I think it is perfectly acceptable, it’s a marriage in all but name and this is a civil marriage, not a religious marriage.”

Three weekend polls – ComRes for The Independent on Sunday and the Sunday Mirror; Survation for The Mail on Sunday; and Opinium for The Observer – showed a surge of support for Ukip, putting it well ahead of the Lib Dems who are down to just eight or nine per cent.

Mr Farage said: “We have never claimed to be at the centre of received opinion in the Westminster bubble, but in the country at large people are beginning to look at what we stand for and what we have to say and are realising that it is Ukip that represents the centre ground of mainstream public opinion.”

Mr Farage said David Cameron was paying the price for being out of step with his party’s natural supporters on the issue of same-sex marriage.

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