David Cameron has said he will "show respect" for Ukip in the wake of Nigel Farage's stunning election surge that saw the eurosceptic party grab 23% of the vote and at least 139 council seats.

The prime minister famously derided Ukip as being full of "fruitcakes" and just last weekend Tory cabinet minister Ken Clarke said the party's candidates were "clowns".

About 2,300 council seats were up for grabs on Thursday in 27 mainly English county councils. Cameron said he would take "major lessons" from the ballots that saw the Tories suffer significant losses.

"We need to show respect for people who have taken the choice to support this party and we are going to work really hard to win them back," he said.

"I understand why some people who supported us before didn't support us again. They want us to do even more to work for hardworking people to sort out the issues they care about."

The prime minister added: "It's no good insulting a political party that people have chosen to vote for."

As the results came in Tory MPs urged Cameron to stop senior Conservatives using "sneering" language when criticising Ukip.

Michael Fabricant, the vice-chairman of the Conservatives, said whatever the reason for the Ukip vote "let us now be polite to Ukip and their supporters".

Noting Cameron's previous mocking of Ukip, Lord Ashcroft, the former deputy chairman of the Tory party, tweeted sarcastically: "Congratulations to the 'clowns' and 'fruitcakes'!!! That worked!!"

Farage has said his party was "abused by everybody" and writing on The Huffington Post UK he said his candidates had been subject to "false allegations and downright intimidation".

The Ukip leader has predicted his party would cause an "earthquake" in British politics as it looks to win the 2014 European elections and then secure one or more MPs in Westminster in 2015.

According to a Ukip spokesperson, as well as winning at least 100 seats the party came second in 634 other races and only 32 candidates garnered less than 10%.

The surge in support for Ukip will worry Tory MPs and councillors who fear the tremors caused by Farage's party will doom the Conservatives to lose the next election by splitting the right-wing vote.

However Michael Gove swiftly shut down any suggestion Cameron's position was in danger. He told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme that he had "no respect" for members of his party who wanted a leadership election. Describing any move to oust the prime minister as "bonkeroony".

The Labour Party has recovered many of the seats it lost when elections were last held in 2009 - however Ed Miliband has not seen a significant breakthrough.

In the South Shields by-election , Labour's majority was cut by more than 4,500, with Ukip coming second with nearly 25% of the vote.

The Blairite former home secretary Alan Johnson said Miliband needed to make a "fresh offer" to voters in order to become prime minister in 2015.

The Labour leader conceded: "I recognise the vote for Ukip and the two-thirds of people who didn't vote, that there are still lots of people saying can anyone turn this country around?"

The by-election was also the scene of humiliation for the Lib Dems, who came seventh with just 352 votes. Nick Clegg's party secured just 155 more votes that the Monster Raving Loony party and 359 votes less than the BNP.

Related on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Local council elections

    Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband speaks to the media in Hastings town centre, East Sussex, following yesterdays local council elections.

  • Local council elections

    UKIP leader Nigel Farage arrives in Westminster after a successful night in the local council elections last night.

  • Local council elections

    UKIP leader Nigel Farage arrives in Westminster after a successful night in the local council elections last night.

  • Local council elections

    UKIP leader Nigel Farage arrives in Westminster after a successful night in the local council elections last night.

  • United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage arrives in Westminster, London, Friday May 3, 2013, after a successful night in the local council elections. David Cameron’s Conservative Party has taken a drubbing in local elections amid a surge of support for right-wing UKIP, an anti-European Union and anti-immigration party. The rise of UKIP adds to pressure on Cameron to staunch a flow of voters from his party ahead of the next general election in 2015 and take a harder line on European reform. (AP Photo/PA, Stefan Rousseau) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE

  • Local council elections

    UKIP leader Nigel Farage makes his way to the Marquis of Granby pub in Westminster, London, after a successful night in the local council elections last night.

  • United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage arrives in Westminster, London, Friday May 3, 2013, after a successful night in the local council elections. David Cameron’s Conservative Party has taken a drubbing in local elections amid a surge of support for right-wing UKIP, an anti-European Union and anti-immigration party. The rise of UKIP adds to pressure on Cameron to staunch a flow of voters from his party ahead of the next general election in 2015 and take a harder line on European reform. (AP Photo/PA, Stefan Rousseau) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE

  • Local council elections

    UKIP leader Nigel Farage drinks a pint in the Marquis of Granby pub in Westminster, London, after a successful night in the local council elections last night.

  • United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage arrives in Westminster, London, Friday May 3, 2013, after a successful night in the local council elections. David Cameron’s Conservative Party has taken a drubbing in local elections amid a surge of support for right-wing UKIP, an anti-European Union and anti-immigration party. The rise of UKIP adds to pressure on Cameron to staunch a flow of voters from his party ahead of the next general election in 2015 and take a harder line on European reform. (AP Photo/PA, Stefan Rousseau) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE

  • Local council elections

    UKIP leader Nigel Farage makes his way to the Marquis of Granby pub in Westminster, London, after a successful night in the local council elections last night.

  • Local council elections

    UKIP leader Nigel Farage drinks a pint in the Marquis of Granby pub in Westminster, London, after a successful night in the local council elections last night.

  • Local council elections

    UKIP leader Nigel Farage drinks a pint in the Marquis of Granby pub in Westminster, London, after a successful night in the local council elections last night.

  • Local council elections

    Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband takes questions from members of the public in Hastings town centre, East Sussex, following yesterdays local council elections.

  • Local council elections

    Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband talks to members of the public in Hastings town centre, East Sussex, following yesterdays local council elections.

  • Local council elections

    Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband (centre) talks to members of the public in Hastings town centre, East Sussex, following yesterdays local council elections.

  • Local council elections

    Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband talks to members of the public in Hastings town centre, East Sussex, following yesterdays local council elections.

  • Local council elections

    Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband talks to members of the public in Hastings town centre, East Sussex, following yesterdays local council elections.

  • Local council elections

    Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband with Hastings Prospective Parliamentry Candidate Sarah Owen talks to members of the public in Hastings town centre, East Sussex, following yesterdays local council elections.

  • Local council elections

    Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband talks to members of the public in Hastings town centre, East Sussex, following yesterdays local council elections.

  • Local council elections

    Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband talks to members of the public in Hastings town centre, East Sussex, following yesterdays local council elections.

  • Local council elections

    Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband takes questions from members of the public in Hastings town centre, East Sussex, following yesterdays local council elections.

  • Local council elections

    Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband talks to members of the public in Hastings town centre, East Sussex, following yesterdays local council elections.

  • Local council elections

    Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband talks to members of the public in Hastings town centre, East Sussex, following yesterdays local council elections.

  • Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband takes questions from members of the public in Hastings town centre, East Sussex, following yeste...

    Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband takes questions from members of the public in Hastings town centre, East Sussex, following yesterdays local council elections. Picture date: Friday May 3, 2013. See PA story POLITICS Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

  • Local council elections

    Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband meets members of the public in Hastings town centre, East Sussex, following yesterdays local council elections.

  • Local council elections

    Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband meets members of the public in Hastings town centre, East Sussex, following yesterdays local council elections.

  • Local council elections

    Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband talks to members of the public in Hastings town centre, East Sussex, following yesterdays local council elections.

  • Local council elections

    Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband talks to members of the public in Hastings town centre, East Sussex, following yesterdays local council elections.

  • Local council elections

    UKIP candidate Kerry Smith (second right), who won the Basildon Westley Heights ward, at the Towngate Theatre in Basildon, during the local elections count and declarations for the Basildon and Wickford districts, in Essex.

  • Local council elections

    UKIP candidates who gained three wards in the Basildon and Wickford districts local elections (left to right) Mark Ellis, Laindon Park and Fryerns, Kerry Smith, Basildon Westley Heights and Nigel Le Gresley, Wickford Crouch ward, celebrate at the Towngate Theatre in Basildon, Essex, following the count and declarations.

  • Local council elections

    UKIP candidate Mark Ellis, who won the Laindon Park and Fryerns ward, at the Towngate Theatre in Basildon, Essex, during the local elections count and declarations for the Basildon and Wickford districts, in Essex.

  • Local council elections

    UKIP candidates who gained three wards in the Basildon and Wickford districts local elections (left to right) Mark Ellis, Laindon Park and Fryerns, Kerry Smith, Basildon Westley Heights and Nigel Le Gresley, Wickford Crouch ward, celebrate at the Towngate Theatre in Basildon, Essex, following the count and declarations.

  • Local council elections

    UKIP candidate Mark Ellis (centre), who won the Laindon Park and Fryerns ward, at the Towngate Theatre in Basildon, Essex, during the local elections count and declarations for the Basildon and Wickford districts, in Essex.

  • Local council elections

    UKIP candidate Mark Ellis (centre), who won the Laindon Park and Fryerns ward, at the Towngate Theatre in Basildon, Essex, during the local elections count and declarations for the Basildon and Wickford districts, in Essex.

  • Local council elections

    UKIP candidate Nigel Le Gresley, who won the Wickford Crouch ward, at the Towngate Theatre in Basildon, Essex, during the local elections count and declarations for the Basildon and Wickford districts, in Essex.

  • Local council elections

    UKIP candidate Nigel Le Gresley (left), who won the Wickford Crouch ward, at the Towngate Theatre in Basildon, Essex, during the local elections count and declarations for the Basildon and Wickford districts, in Essex.

  • Local council elections

    Victorious UKIP candidates pose for a picture (left to right) Alan Preest (Lydney and Elburton), Colin Guyton (Drybrook and Lydbrook) and Richard Leppington (Brean and Blakney) following the local elections count in Oaklands Snooker Club in Cinderford, Gloucestershire.

  • Local council elections

    Victorious UKIP candidates pose for a picture (left to right) Alan Preest (Lydney and Elburton), Colin Guyton (Drybrook and Lydbrook) and Richard Leppington (Brean and Blakney) following the local elections count in Oaklands Snooker Club in Cinderford, Gloucestershire.

  • Local council elections

    (left to right) Labour candidate Janet Royall, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, Conservative candidate Will Windsor Clive, Green Party candidate David Humpheys and Independent candidate Philip Burford await the result in the Newent Division, at the local elections count in Oaklands Snooker Club in Cinderford, Gloucestershire.

  • Local council elections

    UKIP supporters celebrate after UKIP's Colin Guyton (second right) wins the Drybrook and Lydbrook seat, at the count in Oaklands Snooker Club in Cinderford, Gloucestershire.

  • Local council elections

    UKIP supporters celebrate as UKIP's Colin Guyton wins the Drybrook and Lydbrook seat, at the count in Oaklands Snooker Club in Cinderford, Gloucestershire.

  • Local council elections

    Candidates watch as votes are counted at Oaklands Snooker Club in Cinderford, Gloucestershire for the Gloucestershire districts.

  • Local council elections

    Janet Royall, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, at the count at Oaklands Snooker Club in Cinderford, Gloucestershire, ahead of the local elections count.

  • Local council elections

    Janet Royall (right), Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, watches the count at Oaklands Snooker Club in Cinderford, Gloucestershire, of the local elections for the Gloucestershire districts.

  • Local council elections

    Janet Royall, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, jokes with friends at Oaklands Snooker Club in Cinderford, Gloucestershire, ahead of the local elections count for the Gloucestershire districts.

  • Local council elections

    A UKIP election agent watches the verification of ballot papers at Oaklands Snooker Club in Cinderford, Gloucestershire, for the local elections count for the Gloucestershire districts.

  • Local council elections

    Votes are counted at Oaklands Snooker Club in Cinderford, Gloucestershire for the Gloucestershire districts.

  • Local council elections

    Counting begins at Oaklands Snooker Club in Cinderford, Gloucestershire, for the local elections for the Gloucestershire districts.

  • Local council elections

    RETRANSMITTED CORRECTING TOPIC FROM POLL TO POLITICS Ballot boxes arrive at Oaklands Snooker Club in Cinderford, Gloucestershire, for the local elections count for the Gloucestershire districts. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday May 2, 2013. See PA story POLITICS Councils. Photo credit should read: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

  • Local council elections

    RETRANSMITTED CORRECTING TOPIC FROM POLL TO POLITICS Ballot boxes arrive at Oaklands Snooker Club in Cinderford, Gloucestershire, for the local elections count for the Gloucestershire districts. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday May 2, 2013. See PA story POLITICS Councils. Photo credit should read: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

  • Local council elections

    Ballot boxes arrive at Oaklands Snooker Club in Cinderford, Gloucestershire, for the local elections count for the Gloucestershire districts. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday May 2, 2013. See PA story POLL Councils. Photo credit should read: Tim Ireland/PA Wire