Labour slumps to historic defeat

Labour has suffered its worst post-war election result as it was beaten into third place by UKIP and saw the BNP gain its first seats at Brussels.

Labour's share of the vote at the European elections was just 15.3% - worse than party bosses had feared.

The Tories won with 28.6%, beating Labour in Wales but failing to increase their total share significantly.

The results have sent shockwaves through UK politics and led to renewed calls for Gordon Brown to quit as PM.

The BNP gained a seat in Yorkshire and Humberside and in the north west of England, where party leader Nick Griffin was elected - the first time the anti-immigration party has won seats at national elections.

'Two-fingered salute'

Their result was condemned across the political spectrum, with both the Tories and Labour calling it a "sad day" for British politics.

Health Secretary Andy Burnham said: "The BNP is like the ultimate protest vote. It is how to deliver the establishment a two-fingered salute. I think largely it is a comment on Westminster politics."

But in his victory speech, Mr Griffin said he was "absolutely delighted," adding "it will be a huge change in British politics".

He said "The most demonised and lied about party in British politics has made a massive breakthrough. The public have had their say in a democratic election and we should respect that."

With results in Northern Ireland still to come, it is clear that Labour suffered one of its most abject results of all time.

'Dismal' result

Its deputy leader Harriet Harman conceded there had been a "big fall" in the Labour vote and it appeared Labour had been hit "much harder" by anger about MPs' expenses.

"It was a dismal result," she said.

"We have to understand the concerns that people are expressing and address them."

But she backed Gordon Brown saying he was "resilient" and would sort out the economy and expenses.

"What we won't be doing is wringing our hands, being disunited," she said.

Conservative leader David Cameron said he was "delighted" with the results: "The Conservative party were the clear winners in these elections.

"We topped the poll, we increased our share of the vote, increased our number of MEPs, we won in almost every part of the country and had some staggering results like topping the poll in Wales."

'Mocked and derided'

He said taken with last week's local election results it showed "an enormous gap opening up between Labour and Conservative" with the Tories "almost getting twice as many votes as Labour last night".

Other UK-wide Westminster parties effectively trod water on their 2004 European results, with the Lib Dems coming fourth and the Tories increasing their share by just over 1%.

This left the smaller parties to benefit - possibly from public anger over the MP expenses scandal.

UKIP, which campaigns for Britain's withdrawal from the EU, gained 17.4% of the vote and increased its number of MEPs to 13 - beating Labour into third place.

Leader Nigel Farage said his party's performance was a "hell of an achievement" which sent a clear signal to Gordon Brown.

"He has been beaten by a party that he mocked and derided as being on the fringes - so if we have beaten him, he has got to go," Mr Farage said.

In two English regions, the South-East and South-West, the Green Party beat Labour into fifth place.

'Solid result'

Nationally, the Greens increased their share of the vote to 8.7% but leader Caroline Lucas blamed the electoral system for her party's failure to gain more than its current two MEPs.

"In the South East we have increased our vote by 50% and we are disappointed it has not translated into a second seat," Ms Lucas said

The Lib Dems saw their share of the vote shrink slightly on 2004, but leader Nick Clegg told the BBC that taken with last week's local election results, his party had a strong platform to make gains against Labour at a general election.

"On the European vote we held our own, we actually added an MEP - would I have liked to have done even better, yes of course but I think given the very volatile nature of the elections it was a solid result."

He said Labour's 12-year dominance of British politics was over and the party "finished".

Turnout down

In Scotland, SNP leader Alex Salmond hailed a "historic" victory after the Nationalists hammered Labour.

Across Scotland the SNP secured 29% of the vote to Labour's 21%, comfortably achieving the target the SNP leader had set his party at the start of the campaign.

Welsh Labour also suffered humiliation in the European elections, with the Conservatives topping the poll.

It is the first time since 1922 Labour has failed to come first in a Welsh election, as its vote dropped by 12%.

Labour, Conservatives and Plaid Cymru won a seat each, as did UKIP, which will send its first Welsh MEP to Brussels.

The turnout, with Northern Ireland yet to declare, is around a third of the vote, down 4% from 2004, but that is largely down to the fact that some areas had all-postal ballots last time.

The results are likely to pile further pressure on Gordon Brown, who faces a crunch meeting of Labour MPs on Monday, which may decide his future.