BRITISH politics is on course for a groundbreaking change as Ukip hail the Clacton by-election as the start of a parliamentary breakthrough.
Ukip leader Nigel Farage has said he is confident a victory for Douglas Carswell in Thursday night’s Clacton by-election would convince voters the party could win seats in the General Election next year.
Polls running up to the by-election gave former Conservative MP Mr Carswell as much as a 40 point lead, with Tory sources said to have privately conceded defeat in the run up to the vote.
At the same time another by-election in Heywood and Middleton was expected to see Labour retain its seat but with a much increased share of the vote for Ukip.
While there is anticipation of a strong challenge from Ukip candidate John Bickley, opinion polls put Labour candidate Liz McInnes comfortably in the lead.
A victory for Mr Carswell would hand Ukip its first elected MP, a situation Mr Farage said would send shockwaves through Westminster.
Mr Farage was confident when interviewed on the day of the by-election, held on prime minister David Cameron’s birthday, saying that a victory would change the face of the party.
He said: “To be in Westminster gets rid of our greatest political problem.
“People say, ‘Ok Nigel, I agree with you mate, but there’s no point voting Ukip because you can’t win.’ Showing we can win is the biggest change of perception we need with the British public.”
The party leader said a victory was unlikely in the Greater Manchester by-election but insisted “we are going to tear chunks out the Old Labour vote.”
The Ukip vote threat is likely to add further pressure to Ed Miliband, who has come in for renewed criticism as Labour struggle in opinion poll ratings.
A study last week found that the UKIP surge could prevent Labour taking dozens of Tory target seats at the next election, with many predicting a Northern breakthrough.
Bassetlaw MP John Mann said the party leadership had to come up with a better strategy for dealing with a Ukip vote challenge.
The Labour MP said: “We as a party need to be attacking Ukip directly, pointing out just how right wing they are.
“There are still people at the top of the Labour party who think Ukip doing well is not a problem for Labour.
““A lot of the cleverdicks in London think Ukip will just take votes from the Tories and get us into office.
“That is not the case. We are crying out for the leadership to address this and take on the arguments about the economy and immigration.”
Writing in a national newspaper column, Mr Farage yesterday said the party would continue to focus on securing Northern Labour votes.
He said: “It’s not just Clacton that has the heart somewhat palpitating, but equally looking at the staggering gains being made in the stridently Labour territory of Greater Rochdale.
“Ukip has run an amazing campaign in Heywood and Middleton, a constituency that has been under the one-state control of the left for so long that the outcome is often written off as a foregone conclusion.”
Mr Farage has previously told The Yorkshire Post he will start to set out a Northern strategy once the Clacton result is known.
Ukip are thought to have Grimsby as their best placed target seat in the North,with Rotherham also set to feature highly in campaign planning.