LONDON -- Britain’s anti-European Union party made big gains in local elections Friday, taking votes from both the governing Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party and rattling rivals’ nerves a year ahead of Britain’s national election.
It’s a strong performance for the U.K. Independence Party, which advocates pulling Britain out of the 28-nation EU and stopping the unfettered right of EU citizens to enter Britain.
With most results declared Friday from voting for more than 4,000 seats in 161 local authorities, UKIP had won about 150 seats, well over its predicted total of 80.
Labour won the largest share of seats, more than 1,700, gaining more than 250 and doing strongly in London as Britain’s cosmopolitan capital defied the UKIP surge. The gains, however, were less than many Labour supporters had hoped for and not enough to make the party confident of winning next year’s election.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives lost almost 200 seats, while their coalition partners the Liberal Democrats lost even more -- about a third of their total.
The BBC said if projected nationwide the result would give UKIP 17 percent of votes, compared to 31 percent for Labour and 29 percent for the Conservatives.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage said the result meant "we are serious players" in British politics. He said his party was confident it would elect its first lawmakers to Britain’s parliament next year.
Cameron acknowledged that UKIP appealed to voters angry about austerity and worried about immigration had hit home.
"The economy is growing, we are creating jobs, but we have got to work harder and we have got to really deliver on issues that are frustrating people," Cameron said.
Britons also voted Thursday in European Parliament elections. Polls suggest UKIP could gain the largest share of that vote for Britain’s 73 seats in that legislature. Those results will be announced Sunday along with tallies from 27 other EU countries.