The British National Party has won its its first two seats in the European Parliament.
The far right party’s leader Nick Griffin picked up a seat in the North West of England region early today.
And Andrew Brons won a seat last night in the Yorkshire and Humber region, where Labour lost a seat.
The wins came as the party appeared to attract significant numbers of disaffected Labour voters.
Health Secretary Andy Burnham, a North West MP, said the result was a “sad moment for British politics”.
He said: “It is deeply uncomfortable to see the BNP polling in the numbers they have.
“Whatever the country’s problems the BNP are never the answer.
“The BNP is the ultimate protest vote, a two fingered vote and largely a comment on Westminster politics.
“I think the BNP have got very clever in hiding their racist beliefs.”
But Mr Griffin said he was “absolutely delighted”.
“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.”
In his victory speech at Manchester Town Hall, Mr Griffin said: “For the last 50 years, more and more of the people of Britain have watched with concern, growing dismay and sometimes anger as an out-of-touch political elite has transformed our country before our very eyes.
“It is not just a matter of mass immigration, although that is an obvious symptom of it, it is handing us over to be ruled by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels, it’s turning the common wealth of this country, our public services, into private properties for giant corporations, in banning St George’s Day festivals while encouraging everyone else to celebrate their festivals, usually with taxpayers’ money. In so many ways the liberal elite have transformed this country.”
Across the North West the Labour vote in the larger metropolitan areas fell badly compared to the 2004 Euro Elections.
In Liverpool, Labour’s vote fell by 15,000, from 38,640 in 2004 to 23,849, and in Manchester from 36,458 to 27,502.
In Bury, Rochdale, and Stockport the Labour vote halved, along with a 13,000 drop in Sefton, 10,000 in St Helens, 15,000 on the Wirral, 10,000 down in Warrington and a 16,000 drop in Wigan.
The BNP vote increased only marginally in Liverpool and Manchester and their biggest single vote came in Wigan with 7,517 votes cast.
The BNP also polled strongly in Labour strongholds in south Yorkshire.
The BNP achieved 16% of the vote in Barnsley, nearly 12% in Doncaster and 15% in Rotherham – all Labour strongholds.
Tony Lloyd, Labour MP for Manchester Central said he was disappointed that some voters had turned to the BNP.
“I am genuinely not just disappointed, I think it is a matter of shame, this country has a deserved reputation for a tolerant society.
“Their (the BNP) vision for Britain is a nightmare for Britain. I think many people will wake up with some sense of shame.
“Two racists is obviously two too many.”
Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said: “On D-Day, Britain sent an army to Europe to stop the Nazis getting to Britain.
“It is an absolute insult to the memories to those who fought that 65 years later Britain is now sending Nazis to Europe to represent us.”
But speaking after his victory Mr Brons said: “I regard this as the first step to the UK getting freedom from the EU dictatorship.
“Despite the headlines, despite the money, despite the misrepresentation we have managed to win through.”
Sir Richard Leese, Labour leader of Manchester City Council said: “It is a very sad day for the North West.
“I think it shows the flaws in a system that allows them to get a seat with such a small share of the vote.
“All of us who care about this country, care about our way of life here, care about democracy, will spend the next five years working to make sure the fascists are not returned.”