The British anti-European party UKIP led by Nigel Farage is topping opinion polls in Thursday’s Rochester and Strood by-election. The ballot was called as the sitting MP Mark Reckless defected from the Conservatives to UKIP. The party won its first elected seat in Westminster last month.
The Conservatives have thrown their weight behind candidate Kelly Tolhurst but she lags behind in the polls, while the opposition left-wing Labour party which once controlled much of the constituency is also trailing.
A victory for UKIP, which favours immediate withdrawal from the EU and wants to sharply lower immigration, could open the door to a huge change in the traditional two-party system. Nigel Farage said a win could open up British politics, “in a remarkable way”.
A second UKIP MP at Westminster would also heap more pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron who faces a general election next May. His Conservative party is divided over Europe and are neck-and-neck in opinion polls with the opposition Labour party. The Rochester result is expected early on Friday morning.