LONDON (REUTERS) - Britain's anti-EU UKIP party has made strong gains in local elections, taking seats from both Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives and the opposition Labour party, according to early results on Friday.
UKIP (the UK Independence Party) wants Britain to leave the EU and lower immigration and hopes to use the local elections and European elections held on the same day to build momentum to win its first seats in a national election next year.
In a sign the party could do well in elections to the European Parliament too, UKIP won more new seats than any other party in local elections in England, according to partial results from around a quarter of councils.
Previous opinion polls have shown that UKIP leader Nigel Farage has siphoned support from all three main parties by tapping into discontent about the ability of politicians to effect change, particularly on immigration, which many Britons perceive to be overly high.
"I think Nigel Farage for quite a lot of those people is just a big sort of two fingers stuck up at what they feel is a sort of hectoring, out-of-touch elite," Jeremy Browne, a Liberal Democrat lawmaker, said on BBC radio.
The European elections, the results of which will only be announced on Sunday evening, in line with the rest of the EU, will determine the political persuasion of Britain's 73 lawmakers in the 751-seat European Parliament.
Local elections decide the fate of 4,216 local council seats.