UKIP is on course to see its first North East MEP elected this year as polling says the party will push out the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.
The latest ComRes poll suggests the UK Independence Party will come second in this May’s European elections, seeing the party take the second of the three MEP seats, a first for UKIP in the region.
Last year the party saw its candidate come second in the South Shields by-election with 24% of the vote, rasing hopes among UKIP members that it was on course for a North East election breakthrough which would prove the party can take votes from Labour as well as the Conservatives.
Figures for the North show Labour on 41%, ahead of UKIP on 31%, with the Conservatives on 14% and the Liberal Democrats just 7%. The North East currently has three MEPs, with one each from Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. If these results were repeated at the ballot box the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives would lose their seats, with UKIP and Labour both gaining one.
UKIP’s lead North East Euro-elections candidate Jonathan Arnott (pictured) said: “At the Middlesbrough and South Shields by-elections, UKIP showed that we are now the real challengers to Labour across the North East. These polling numbers show that it’s a clear fight between Labour and UKIP to win here in May.
“If you don’t want unlimited EU immigration or to hand over £55 million every day in membership fees, there really is only one option: UKIP. Our opponents have already resorted to scaremongering and wild, unsubstantiated claims about job losses when we would be guaranteed a free trade deal outside the EU.”
The Conservatives have insisted they are the best option for people seeking a referendum on EU membership.
North East Tory MEP Martin Callanan said: “No one knows what will happen in May but what is certain is that every single vote counts. This is just one poll with a very small sample from the region. We will be fighting hard to get our message across that only the Conservatives will deliver a referendum on EU membership. Labour won’t and UKIP can’t.”
Last night though Labour insisted it was ready to fight UKIP.
Lead Labour candidate Jude Kirton-Darling said: “The cost of living is rising quicker than wages and those that I speak to realise that the only way to send a strong message to this Government is to vote Labour.
“Many people are repelled by UKIP’s policies when they scratch below the surface, they are worse than the Tories in many ways, pledging deeper and harder austerity measures mixed in with barmy ideas.”