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Voters drub conservatives in England

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Nigel Farage leads the UK Independent Party, once dismissed as “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists” by Prime Minister David Cameron.

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By The Associated Press
Friday, May 3, 2013, 8:15 p.m.

LONDON — David Cameron's Conservatives took a drubbing in local elections amid a surge of support for an anti-European Union and anti-immigration party, heaping pressure on the British prime minister to appeal to the dissident right-wing of his own party.

Echoing results across Europe, British voters appeared to punish the ruling government, fed up with economic doldrums and austerity measures. Britain's nationalist party appeared to be the recipient of a sizeable protest vote against the political elite and the EU, analysts said.

According to returns Friday from 34 contests across England, the right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party, or UKIP, won 139 county council seats, while the mainstream opposition Labour Party gained 291.

The Liberal Democrats — junior partners in Britain's coalition government — were down 124 county council seats, while Cameron's ruling Conservatives lost 335 seats in Thursday's vote.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage — whose party Cameron once referred to as a bunch of “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists” — said the results will send a “shock wave” through the British political establishment.

“This is a real sea change in British politics,” Farage told the BBC.

Cameron's popularity has taken a beating as the government sticks to a strict policy of austerity to cut Britain's debts, slashing public sector jobs and welfare payments.

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