Nigel Farage has hailed a remarkable night for Ukip in local council elections, which he said put them in with a chance of securing a seat at Westminster and had sent a "shockwave" through the political establishment.

With many votes still to be counted after Thursday's elections, Ukip have so far gained 42 county council seats in England and also claimed second place behind Labour in the South Shields parliamentary by-election, while the two coalition parties suffered a drubbing.

nigel farage

Nigel Farage celebrates a successful night for Ukip

Ukip became the second largest party in Lincolnshire, winning 16 seats and depriving Conservatives of overall control.

And the party - which won no councillors at all when the seats were last contested in 2009 - picked up 10 in Hampshire, nine in Essex, three in Gloucestershire, three in Somerset and one in Dorset.

Ukip has been derided by leading Conservative politicians who fear the party will split the traditional Tory vote - including Ken Clarke who described the eurosceptic party as "clowns".

After seeing his party make substantial advances in the elections, Farage told Sky News this morning: "Send in the clowns."

"We've been abused by everybody, attacked by the entire establishment, who did their best to stop ordinary decent people from going out and voting Ukip and they have done in big, big numbers," he said.

"At the end of today we are going to have a fair tally and it sends a shockwave, I think, through the establishment."

Challenged over whether Ukip were no more than the beneficiaries of protest votes against the coalition Government, Farage pointed out that his party has come second in five of the last six parliamentary by-elections, claiming: "This wave of protest certainly isn't short-term - it's lasting."

Describing Ukip as "numerically" the third party in British politics, he added: "I think if we get a by-election that comes up in the next few months that is not a safe Tory or Labour seat but is a marginal, we have every chance of winning it."

The South Shields contest, triggered by David Miliband's decision to quit as an MP, was won by Labour's Emma Lewell-Buck with a reduced majority of 6,505.

The 24% of the vote secured by Ukip's Richard Elvin to take second place "shows that our potential with old Labour voters is very high indeed", said Mr Farage.

But it was a bad result for the Conservatives, who finished third, and a humiliation for the Liberal Democrats.

Nick Clegg's party lost its deposit after securing just 352 votes, finishing in seventh position behind an independent, an independent socialist and the BNP.

Overnight counts took place at six authorities which were held by the Tories before the election, with Conservatives losing control of two.

As well as in Lincolnshire, they were ousted from overall control in Gloucestershire, where there were four gains for Labour and three for Ukip.

The Conservatives retained control in Dorset, Essex, Hampshire and - narrowly - Somerset, where they lost five seats and the Liberal Democrats lost four. With counting continuing in Hertfordshire, the Tories had already won enough seats to keep hold of the council.

Labour's Norma Redfearn ousted incumbent Tory Linda Arkley in the battle to be mayor of North Tyneside.

After the six overnight counts, the Tories had lost 74 seats and the Lib Dems were down 16. Ukip were the big winners with 42 gains, and Labour were up 26.

Initial results in Staffordshire, where counting will continue later, saw some Labour gains and the Tories losing their stranglehold on Tamworth.

Of the six Tory-held county council seats up for grabs in the borough, three fell to Labour and a fourth to an independent candidate.

Senior politicians from the three main parties attempted to explain the rise of Ukip, which could have major implications, particularly for David Cameron as he attempts to calm the fears of grassroots Tories nervous at the loss of votes to Farage's party.

The prime minister is under pressure from within his party to enshrine in law before the 2015 election his commitment to hold an in/out referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union.

Cameron has promised the public a vote before the end of 2017 if he wins the next election, but London mayor Boris Johnson is among those calling for him to legislate for that commitment in this Parliament.

Conservative chairman Grant Shapps acknowledged that his party had been hit by the rise of Ukip.

"We have lost a lot of good councillors in the counts overnight," Shapps told ITV's Daybreak. "People have sent a message, we get it, we hear what people are saying, people are concerned that we get on with the big issues facing hard-working people in this country, like fixing the economy, sorting out the welfare system, helping hard-working people to get on.

"There is a lot more to do, there's two years to go until the next election and in the end it will be a choice between whether you want Ed Balls and Ed Miliband, for Labour, in Downing Street or David Cameron trying to make sure that this country is always a place where hard-working people can get on."

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

Labour's Hilary Benn said: "Ukip have clearly done very well. It's a party of protest and times are really tough. People are feeling the pain and some people are coming out who haven't voted before and expressing that by voting for Ukip."

Benn added: "It's a party of protest, I don't think it's a party of government."

With Labour winning two seats in Harlow, Benn said they had made gains in "the kind of places, the key seats in the South where we need to be making further progress".

Deputy Lib Dem leader Simon Hughes said the South Shields results showed Ukip "are now the protest party in certain seats where the rest of us are not within challenging distance".

But he said Labour was not picking up protest votes in the way an opposition party would expect.

"I think this is as worrying for Labour as for the Tories, but we will see," he told Daybreak.

He insisted the Lib Dems were doing well "in our territory" - areas where the party had MPs.

A Ukip spokesman predicted the party would receive more than one million votes, a higher level of support than at the last general election.

The spokesman said: "Where we are standing, we are taking an average of 26.2% of the vote.

"I can now predict with confidence that we will take more than one million votes - more than we took at the entire general election in 2010. It's likely that we might even reach 1.5 million."

The party is currently pinning its hopes of a Westminster seat on Portsmouth South, where Lib Dem Mike Hancock has come under pressure to stand down following a series of negative headlines.

But Farage acknowledged that its future success will depend on whether its warnings prove correct about the impact of Romanian and Bulgarian immigration once their nationals gain full rights to work in the UK at the end of this year.

"I think to a large extent what will determine Ukip's success next year and the year after is what happens with Romania and Bulgaria," he said. "We have put out the big warning that a lot of people are coming and it will lead to unemployment, and I'm afraid more crime in our cities."

Tory backbencher John Baron, who last month delivered a letter to David Cameron signed by 100 Conservative MPs calling for referendum legislation, said the results should be a "wake up call" for the Government.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme the need for at least an attempt at legislation to reinforce the Prime Minister's referendum pledge was reinforced by the poll.

Mr Baron said: "I take the view Ukip are not simply a protest party. There are a lot of people in Ukip with genuine concerns.

"If you can deliver legislation in this Parliament, or at least show serious intent that if the Conservatives get in we will definitely have an in/out referendum in 2017, then my question to anyone is why would you bother voting for Ukip?"

Related on HuffPost:

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  • Anne-Marie Crampton

    Ukip suspended Crampton who had been due to stand in next week's East Sussex local elections for anti-semitic comments posted online. A Facebook profile in her name posted that the Second World War had been "engineered by the Zionist jews", adding: "Only the Zionists could sacrifice their own in the gas chambers." She also made reference to conspiracy theories about the Boston bombings.

  • Godfrey Bloom

    UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom told Radio Five Live's John Pienaar programme that women of a child bearing age shouldn't be employed because maternity rights are too 'draconian'. TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Godfrey Bloom should know better than to encourage employers to break the law. "Maternity rights are neither draconian nor political correctness gone mad - they are elementary justice for working mothers."

  • Winston McKenzie

    Winston McKenzie, UKIP candidate for Thursday's Croydon North by-election, told a local reporter placing children with same-sex couples was "unhealthy".

  • Lord Pearson

    Former Ukip leader Lord Pearson was asked by the BBC, during the General Election campaign in 2010 about his party's policy on regulating banks. He said he had not come on the programme to "deal with the minutiae". Asked whether he had read his own manifesto, he confessed: "I haven't remembered it all in detail."

  • Chris Scotton

    Scotton, who was due to stand in Leicestershire in Thursday's council elections, is a fan of the EDL on Facebook He's also a member of a Facebook page called: "I hate [it] when I lose my black friend in the dark."

  • Dr Julia Gasper

    The UKIP Chairman for Oxford was been removed from her position for comparing homosexuality to bestiality. She wrote on an official Ukip forum that some gay people preferred sex with animals, and wrote: “As for the links between homosexuality and paedophilia, there is so much evidence that even a full-length book could hardly do justice to the ­subject.”

  • Maggie Chapman

    Maggie Chapman, a UKIP election agent apparently posted racist jokes on twitter and Facebook - using the word "paki" and suggesting Eastenders was "unrealistic" because it features a family returning to Pakistan

  • Paul Whiffen

    Paul Wiffen, the 2010 candidate for Ilford South, posted on the Community Care site. "You left-wing scum are all the same, wanting to hand our birthright to Romanian gypsies who beat their wives and children into begging and stealing money they can gamble with, Muslim nutters who want to kill us and put us under medieval Sharia law, the same Africans who sold their Afro-Caribbean brothers into a slavery that Britain was first to abolish (but you still want to apologize for!)" UKIP said he had been suspended but, following his apology and an inquiry, he was allowed back into the party.

  • Steve Moxon

    Ukip’s candidate in Sheffield, had been dismissed from Ukip in 2012 for stating some agreement with the views of Norwegian mass killer Anders Bering Breivik, despite condemning his actions. He wrote on his blog: That pretty well everyone – myself not excluded – recoiled at his actions, does not belie the accuracy of Breivik's research and analysis in his 'manifesto', which is in line with most scholarship in respect of both Political Correctness and Islam. It is clear that the mass of ordinary people are considered with utter contempt by the government-media-education uber-class across the Western world; this as the result of 'cultural Marxism'. So we are, in effect, 'at war' within our societies over PC, as Breivik claims.