VOTERS will hand Ukip their first election victory and leave the Lib Dems trailing in a humiliating fifth place, pollsters have predicted as European Parliament and English local elections took place today.
The prediction based on a YouGov poll of 6,124 adults put Nigel Farage’s UK independence party in 27 per cent followed by Labour on 26 per cent, the Tories on 22 per cent, Greens 10 per cent and Lib Dems nine percent.
Meanwhile in Scotland it is expected that the SNP will top the poll with the sixth and final seat contested between it and Ukip.
If the poll proves accurate it means that the Lib Dems could be wiped out in the European Parliament when results are declared on Sunday, although they could hold on to three seats.
The poll suggests that Ukip and Labour will both have 22 MEPs, an increase of nine each on the last elections in 2009.
The Conservatives are expected to get 16 of the 70 European Parliament seats being voted on in England, Scotland and Wales, 10 fewer than before, while the Greens will get four an increase of two. The SNP will win two or three seats in Scotland, while the far-right BNP will lose both its MEPs.
The survey also found that less than a quarter of voters planned to go to the polling booths to actually influence the European Parliament, with 63 per cent saying they would do so to express their views on the political scene in Britain and its relationship with the EU.
Immigration and membership of the EU were the key issues for voters, but 42 per cent still said they preferred to stay in Europe.
Meanwhile, reports of a leaked internal Liberal Democrat document suggests the party is braced for the possibility of failing to win any seats at all in the European parliamentary elections.
The document, the contents of which the newspaper says it has seen, is said to advise senior party figures to say it was “expected” should it win no seats.
If the party wins between zero and two MEPs, Lib Dem spokesmen have been briefed to say they are “disappointed with the result but the party remains resolute and this was expected at this point in an electoral cycle”.
Two to three MEPs would be “a good result considering the circumstances”, while three to five MEPs would be a “very encouraging result and is much better than almost everyone predicted”.
It also says the Lib Dem’s best hopes are to win five seats, less than half of its 11 MEPs from 2009.
A Ukip win could provide Prime Minister David Cameron with a challenging 12 months in Downing Street as he seeks to appeal to the nation and keep the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative Party content on issues including immigration.
The Government’s attempts to slash net migration to the tens of thousands will come under the spotlight as official figures are released at the same time as voters go to the polls.
The election results will also be a clearer indication as to whether Mr Farage’s party has successfully negotiated close media scrutiny of its candidates and policies.
A senior Labour source said the party hoped to gain up to 200 councillors, and had been ploughing resources into seats they will be targeting in next year’s general election.
A good night would see Labour claim a 25 per cent share in the European elections, giving Ed Miliband’s party 22 MEPs instead of the current 13.
But the party admitted that European contests had been “historically difficult” for Labour and other centre-left parties across the EU.
The source also indicated that it would not be surprising if Ukip claimed the top spot and British politics entered a new era.
The source said: “We are now in an era of four-party politics but what we have got to do, and what we hope we are starting to do, is win where it matters in the local elections.”
Labour was “ruthlessly” targeting its efforts at battleground seats in next year’s Westminster contest, inspired by US president Barack Obama’s strategy - masterminded by Labour’s new guru David Axelrod - of focusing resources where they would have the most impact.
“We know we are going to have less money than the Tories, so we have got to make better use of the money and people we have got, and to use that in the most sensible way,” added the source.