03/01/2014 06:49 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 16:01 GMT

Lord Ashdown 'Surprised' Recession Did Not Trigger More Riots

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ROCK, ENGLAND - APRIL 13: Former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown speaks to a potential voter as he campaigns for Dan Rogerson, Liberal Democrat candidate for North Cornwall, on April 13, 2010 in Rock, England. The South West of England, which Lord Ashdown is heading the Liberal Democrat campaign, is traditionally seen as a Liberal Democrat heartland and will be a key battleground if the Conservative Party hope to form win the election. The General Election, to be held on May 6, 2010 is s

Lord Ashdown has said he is "surprised" there have not been more riots as a result of the recession and warned Lib Dems they not immune to a surge in support for Ukip.

The former Lib Dem leader, who is in charge of planning the party's 2015 general election campaign, said while the economic situation was improving, the "fundamental balance of that recovery is wrong".

He told The Times: "Many people wonder if we will get through the pain of this recession, particularly since it hits some of the areas that are poorest in Britain, without more public disturbance.

"I’m surprised and I’m encouraged that it hasn’t happened. I hope and believe the worst of that danger is over. I didn’t say the worst of the pain is over. What destroys trust and morale is the absence of hope."

Lord Ashdown also admitted that the Lib Dems and Labour should not assume it was only the Conservative Party that risked losing votes to Ukip.

He said Nigel Farage's anti-establishment party was building up in poorer areas as the working class felt increasingly "dejected and depressed" about what the mainstream parties had to offer.

“You’re seeing a shift to Ukip and a shift to Marine Le Pen. It can be left or right — the loss of confidence in the politics of the centre, of the three major parties, it seems to me is quite strong,” he said.

Ukip has consistently out-polled the Lib Dems over the course of the last year and is hoping to win this year's European parliamentary elections in May.

The party's deputy leader Paul Nuttall said Lord Ashdown was right to acknowledge that Ukip is far more than a party for former Conservative supporters.

"We have been saying for a long time that we are the emerging alternative in British politics, taking votes from across the board and indeed from many people who had stopped voting altogether.

"Ukip is fast becoming not only the challenger to the Conservatives in many Tory-held seats in the South, but a real contender in the working class Labour heartlands in the North of England as well as in Liberal Democrat seats too."

Nick Clegg recently warned voters that choosing Ukip - or any other party - over the Lib Dems would "jeopardise our recovery" as Britain needed to take a leading role in the EU.