THE UK Independence Party (UKIP) could be on target to win its first Assembly Member in North Wales after coming top in the European elections in Wrexham and Flintshire.
The eurosceptic party – led by Nigel Farage – also triumphed in Denbighshire and Conwy, making the possibility of a UKIP AM for the North Wales regional seat after the 2016 Assembly elections more realistic.
Voters in Chester also sided with UKIP – pushing the Conservatives into second place. Chester-based UKIP candidate Steven Woolfe, of Victoria Road, was elected as the party’s third MEP for the North West region.
Voter turnout was low across Wales, with just 32 per cent of the electorate making it to the ballot box – a slight increase on the 2009 European elections.
In Wrexham, less than 30 per cent of voters took part in the election. UKIP topped the poll, bagging 9,569 votes – more than 1,500 ahead of second placed Labour, who tallied 8,058 votes.
The Conservatives rounded out the top three, notching just over half the votes of UKIP, with 5,451.
Plaid Cymru was next with 3,210 votes, while the Lib Dems secured 1,129 and the Green Party chalked up 1,111.
Results were much the same in Flintshire, with an identical top three of UKIP, Labour and Conservatives. UKIP returned 11,800 votes to Labour’s 10,121 and the Tory total of 7,538.
Results in Wales meant each of UKIP, Labour, the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru retain a representative at the European Parliament in Brussels – the same as in recent years.
Labour grabbed the most votes across Wales, with 206,332 – pipping UKIP by about 4,300 votes nationwide. The Conservatives managed 127,742 and Plaid Cymru came fourth with 111,864. On a miserable night for the Liberal Democrats, the party was pushed into sixth place by the Green Party in Wales.
Successful UKIP candidate Nathan Gill said: “We had a wonderful result and came just within 5,000 votes of first place. Our message has resonated with voters despite the media campaign against us.”
Mr Gill said his party would continue to push for a referendum on Britain’s European Union (EU) membership and they “must” get seats in Westminster at the general election next year.
Mr Gill will join Labour’s Derek Vaughan, Plaid Cymru’s Jill Evans and Conservative Kay Swinburne as Wales’ MEPs for the next five years.
Mr Vaughan said he would keep making the case for staying in the EU as it would be disastrous for Wales's economy if the UK left.
He championed links between major employers like Broughton’s Airbus and Europe.
Former Neath Port Talbot Council chief Mr Vaughan was jeered by UKIP supporters when he took to the stage to speak about Europe’s benefits.
Afterwards, he told reporters: “Was I surprised for UKIP to shout while I was making my acceptance speech? Not really. It is the kind of behaviour I’ve come to expect from right-wing parties.
“I’m delighted we polled the most votes – even if we did not win a second seat.”
Speaking after her re-election, Dr Swinburne said: “It is an honour to have been re-elected to represent people of Wales for another five years in the European Parliament. This gives me the opportunity to continue the work I began in 2009 and to work with Conservative colleagues as we seek to reform the European Union, renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU and offer the people of Britain a vote in an in-out referendum by the end of 2017.”
UKIP triumphed in Cheshire West and Chester, totalling 23,649 to beat the Conservatives into second by about 1,500 votes. Labour came third with 19,628 of the 79,164 votes cast – a turnout of just over 31 per cent.
Results across the North West of England secured UKIP a further three seats at the European Parliament. Labour grabbed three, with two going to the Conservatives.