UKIP leader Nigel Farage has insisted the party is more than just a vehicle for protest after it came second in the Eastleigh by-election, kicking the Conservatives into third place.
He told the party’s spring conference in Exeter the public is angry with the failure of the three main parties on key issues.
But he argued UKIP’s shock result in Eastleigh was not merely a rejection of their opponents.
Mr Farage listed a range of areas – from Europe Union membership to cost of living and an obsession with renewable energy – where the public feels “incredibly let down”.
However, he insisted he was “pretty sure” UKIP’s appeal goes wider than disaffection, stressing that the party has a coherent policy platform.
He also said UKIP should not only target disaffected Conservative voters but also traditional Labour supporters, some of whom may be won over by its stance on immigration.
Mr Farage focused in his speech on what he sees as the impact of immigration on working-class communities, where some believe extra pressure has been put on public services.
A sign of UKIP’s growing credibility came recently when Mr Farage was invited to dinner with Rupert Murdoch.
The Eastleigh by-election was forced after the resignation of Lib Dem cabinet minister Chris Huhne, who pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice by getting his wife Vicky Pryce to take three speeding points.
The UKIP candidate Diane James was only 2,000 votes behind the Lib Dem winner Mike Thornton and more than 1,000 ahead of the third place Conservative candidate Maria Hutchings.
UKIP won a 27.8% share of the vote, which had a 52% turnout.
The result was widely regarded as a win in all but name for UKIP, and a devastating defeat for the Tories. Labour, meanwhile, despite doing well in national polls, failed to increase their share and were a long way behind.
It was the fourth time that UKIP had come second in a by-election.