The UK is one of the first countries to kick off voting in the European elections on Thursday and the embattled prime minister Gordon Brown and his Labour party face a severe mauling in a ballot that is widely being judged as a popularity poll.While no political party has escaped the expenses furore the resignation of Communities Secretary Hazel Blears and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith adds to a sense of a government in crisis. With some polls giving it just 18 percent support, Labour’s woes have been a boon for some of the smaller parties. The eurosceptic UK Independence Party, which wants to pull Britain completely out of the EU, is hoping to increase its representation in the European parliament. However, Labour’s worst nightmare is the rise of extremism in its strongholds. Campaigning on anti-immigration and what it calls ‘the culture of excess’ the far-right British National Party has tried to make the most of voter discontent and could pick up a seat in the European parliament.