Senior UKIP figures are targeting an electoral breakthrough in West Norfolk after the party won its first Parliamentary election last week.
The party won three of its 14 Norfolk County Council seats in the borough last year, before topping the poll in May’s European elections with almost 42 per cent of the vote.
Now, its win in the Clacton by-election and narrow defeat in the Haywood and Middleton seat in Manchester has renewed members’ confidence of making further gains next year.
Toby Coke, the party’s Norfolk County Council group leader, described the results as “brilliant” and claimed they showed voters recognised they could offer genuine change.
He said: “They (the other parties) just want to maintain the status quo and people are waking up to it.”
Mr Coke, who represents the Gayton and Nar Valley division at County Hall, is the party’s candidate for the North West Norfolk constituency at next year’s general election.
But, while he expects a three-way fight between himself, Conservative incumbent Henry Bellingham and Labour’s Jo Rust, he said: “We have got everything to play for. I’m very confident about it. I’m looking forward to it.”
Mr Bellingham said the by-election results were a “wake-up call” and insisted he was not complacent about the battle he will face next May.
He also admitted he “didn’t disagree” with the views of new UKIP MP Douglas Carswell. But he played down the suggestion of a three-way battle in his constituency, pointing to the Conservatives’ clear victory over UKIP in the Burnham ward by-election earlier this year.
He said the Government should not panic about UKIP’s success, but more did need to be done to explain the party’s successes both nationally and locally. He added: “We’re working very hard to get our campaign ready and we’re going to communicate a very strong message.”
The candidates who have already been confirmed for the general election in West Norfolk are as follows:
North West Norfolk: Henry Bellingham (Conservative), Toby Coke (UKIP), Jo Rust (Labour).
South West Norfolk: Rupert Moss-Eccardt (Liberal Democrat), Peter Smith (Labour), Elizabeth Truss (Conservative).
Green Party officials say they expect to name their candidates within the next month.
UKIP expect to name their candidate for SW Norfolk before Christmas, while the Liberal Democrat candidate for NW Norfolk is likely to be selected early in the new year.