UKIP leaders have spoken of their “delight” after winning two seats on Hartlepool council – with the promise they will only grow in strength.
Councillor George Springer was elected to the Jesmond Ward with the narrowest of wins, pipping the ousted Linda Shields, of Labour, by just two votes.
There was five recounts before election officials finally announced the winner in the early hours of this morning.
Coun Springer’s success came hot on the heels of fellow UKIP candidate Tom Hind who won the Seaton Ward with 29 per cent of the vote.
Coun Hind beat off stiff competition from independent, Putting Hartlepool First and Labour candidates.
Their surprise victories came on the back of a pledge by national party leader Nigel Farage that UKIP would be targeting Hartlepool for a breakthrough in the 2015 general election.
Town leaders believe that helped win them the two seats.
UKIP’s Phillip Broughton, who is set to stand for the role of MP in the town in 2015, was at last night’s count and he expressed his delight.
Mr Broughton said: “This has been a fantastic set of results for us and it shows that we are a strong opposition in Hartlepool.
“To record seven second places and win two wards is amazing. I will be working hard over the next 12-months to push Labour hard in the general election and I believe it will be a straight fight between the two.”
Eric Wilson, UKIP chairman in town, said: “I am absolutely delighted.
“I must congratulate George Springer and Tom Hind for being elected,” added Mr Wilson, who came second in the Rural West ward to Conservative councillor Brenda Loynes.
The two winning candidates described their own surprise and delight at their success.
Coun Hind, 63, of the Seaton Ward, said: “I am very pleased with the result and I have fought a good campaign.
“I must thank the voters in Seaton and UKIP is resonating with more and more people. We are unstoppable.”
Coun Springer, 72, of Jesmond Ward, said: “I am shocked and stunned – five recounts there was!
“I really didn’t expect to win and it is all very overwhelming really but the people have started to believe what we stand for.”
“Nigel Farage said he was going to target Hartlepool and that has had an impact.”