LONDON, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- The Euro-skeptic United Kingdom Independence Party has displaced the Liberal Democrats as the third-ranking political group, its leader said Friday.
UKIP came in second behind the Labor Party in two by-elections Thursday and third in another. The Lib Dems, the Conservatives' partner in the coalition government, trailed in all three contests, The Guardian reported, in what a political scientist called the party's worst performance since the end of World War II.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage told the BBC's Radio 4 the party expects to win seats in the upcoming elections for the European Parliament.
"We have established ourselves now as the third force in British politics. We have beaten the Lib Dems in all forms of elections over the course of this year. We are clearly and consistently now above the Lib Dems in the opinion polls," he said. "There is an upward trend. And I think the UKIP message is resonating with voters and not just Tory voters. There are plenty of voters, particularly in the north of England, coming to us from Labor and the Lib Dems."
Labor retained its seats in Rotherham and Middlesbrough in Yorkshire and Croydon North in the London area. UKIP came in second in Rotherham and Middlesbrough and third in Croydon while the Lib Dems were in eighth place in Rotherham, third in Middlesbrough and fourth in Croydon.
Simon Hughes, the Lib Dem deputy leader, told the BBC he believes the party's weak showing is a result of difficult economic times and UKIP becoming the "party of protest."
But John Curtice, a Strathclyde University professor of politics, believes the party has long-term problems.
"It's lot of voters who voted Liberal Democrat in 2010 who are now of the view that what the party is doing in office is not what it said it would do when it was campaigning, and therefore they've lost a lot of trust," he said. "And it's looking as though that's going to be very difficult to turn around."