Nigel Farage reacts on stage after being re-elected as an MEP as the South East England region results of the European Parliament elections. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Farage's gamble pays off - but where do Ukip go next?

 Nigel Farage is serious about getting Ukip seats at the next general election, he will soon have to upset a lot of prominent party personnel.

Nigel Farage’s approach to the European elections was not governed by conventional wisdom. While the Conservatives spent months downplaying expectations of their performance in the European elections, Farage was busy doing the opposite.

The European election results provided stunning vindication. The easy option would have been to set Ukip up as carefree underdogs, and try to replicate the strategy that yielded a second-placed finish in the 2009 European elections.

But Farage eschewed such expediency. The problem with 2009, for Ukip, is running a low stakes campaign in a low stakes election meant that, after polling day, there wasn’t much left. A vote for Ukip was a cheap shot at the other parties, but it was forgotten in about the time it took to put a cross by Ukip’s box on the ballot paper. A year after the last European elections, Ukip had lost over four-fifths of their support.

So Farage opted for a different approach. He put pressure on Ukip at every turn. He shunned the expectation management approach. Farage made the elections high stakes - or at least as high stakes as European elections can be. This meant a more intense election campaign, and more scrutiny on the party. It created a formidable ‘Stop Ukip’ political machine.

For Farage, overcoming this is a significant achievement. His hope will be that voters have heard everything bad there is to say about Ukip, and that those who did vote for Ukip will not encounter any nasty surprises about the party before May 6 next year. Ukip is successfully tapping into the ‘left behind’ voters who Rob Ford and Matt Goodwin have identified as its most fertile group of supporters. And they did cared not for the anti-Ukip attacks. The more Farage and his party were attacked, the higher they polled.

Still, perspective is needed. Ukip came top, yes, but with 27.5% - and in an election in which turnout was a derisory 35%, 30% less than in the last general election. This “political earthquake” may yet do no more than mildly shake the cutlery. If Nigel Farage is serious about getting Ukip seats at the next general election, he will soon have to upset a lot of prominent party personnel. The party lacks the resources to target more than a dozen seats in 2015.

Farage will hope that the real legacy of this campaign is more than just a fleeting historical triumph for Ukip but the creation of a distinct brand of Ukip voters. Supporters who stayed with the party despite - or perhaps because of - the media onslaught and are more faithful than Ukip’s voters in the 2009 European elections. The reasons not to vote for Ukip have never been more known or better articulated. That so many voters overcame these will give Ukip hope that its vote will collapse less spectacularly than five years ago.   

Tim Wigmore is a contributing writer to the New Statesman and the author of Second XI: Cricket In Its Outposts.

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Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.