YORKSHIRE’s new Members of the European Parliament were still pinching themselves today as they joined their UK Independence Party colleagues for a celebration in London.
Just hours earlier at Leeds Town Hall, Jane Collins, Amjad Bashir and Mike Hookem had discovered they will represent the region in Brussels and Strasbourg after Ukip won 31 per cent of the vote in Yorkshire, enough to claim three of the region’s six European Parliament seats.
It was the first time one party had won three Yorkshire seats since the 1999 European elections.
As the third person on Ukip’s list of candidates for Yorkshire, Mike Hookem knew he would only become an MEP if the party enjoyed a significant victory.
“Honestly, I was surprised,” he said.
“I thought we would get two in and when we were looking at the figures I was being a pessimist and saying ‘let’s wait and see’.”
Mr Hookem went into politics after running home renovation and shop and laboratory fitting companies as well as serving with the armed forces.
“If it did happen, I’ve been prepared for that. In my previous working life I always worked away from home so I am prepared for that. I’m just looking forward to getting stuck in.”
East Hardwick-born Ms Collins ran a business rehabilitating racehorses and showjumpers before meeting former Ukip MEP Godfrey Bloom.
She became his campaign manager before standing in her own right in by-elections for the Westminster seats in Barnsley and Rotherham, coming second on both occasions.
Mr Bashir arrived in the UK from Pakistan at the age of eight not speaking English. After selling perfume door-to-door with his father he went on to study at Bradford University.
He later built up the Zouk restaurant business before commiting himself to politics full time in 2012, acting as the party’s small business spokesman.
While the European elections handed seats to three new faces from the region, they also meant a return to the Parliament for Labour’s Richard Corbett, who lost his seat in 2009, as Labour increased its Yorkshire seats from one to two.
He said: “I’m pleased to have been elected to serve the people of Yorkshire and Humber in the European Parliament, standing up for our region’s businessesand protecting employees’ and consumers’ rights.
“I look forward to working as part of a European Labour team acting to reform and improve the EU so it works even better for people here - doing more on jobs creation, reducing waste and strengthening rules on benefits.
“This was an election in which many people showed their disaffection with all the mainsteam parties by voting UKIP.
“It’s crucial Labour listens more to their concerns and demonstrates that we have the answers on the issues which matter to them.”
Mr Corbett rejoins fellow Labour MEP Linda McAvan, now the longest continuing serving Yorkshire MEP having been first elected in 1998.
Ms McAvan admitted there was “some disappointment”that Labour had not emerged top in the results which, she said, showed there was disillusionment among voters towards all the major parties.
“Europe too has to change and the European Union has to bring forward policies not of austerity but policies that respond to the real needs of ordinary people for jobs and growth.”
The results marked the end of the far-right British National Party’s presence among Yorkshire’s MEPs as it managed to scrape together just 20,138 votes across the whole region.
The Yorkshire First Party managed to poll just over 19,000 votes in its first election.