Ukip has set up its Eurosceptic camp for two days at the sunny and crisp Doncaster Racecourse on Labour's doorstep in the north of England. The annual conference comes months after the party secured more than 12% of the vote at the general election, but were left with just one MP – Clacton's Douglas Carswell.

Tory defector Mark Reckless lost his Rochester and Strood seat and Nigel Farage failed to win South Thanet despite Ukip throwing troops and resources at the Kent constituency. Another top target was the Conservative-held Thurrock. Tim Aker, already an MEP for the East of England and a young hot shot, took up the challenge.

But Aker, who is also a councillor in the constituency, did not even come second in the seat. Labour's Polly Billington edged Aker into third (32.6% versus 31.7% of the vote, respectively), with Jackie Doyle-Price just holding the fort for David Cameron and winning the seat with 33.7%.

Sarah Curtis Ukip
Sarah Curtis, 19, is the national chairman of Ukip Students Ian Silvera/IBTimes UK

Sarah Curtis, the national chairman of Ukip Students, was at the count on the night. The 19-year-old said there had been a mix of surprise and disappointment when the result was announced. But the young activist is pragmatic about the election.

"It's politics – these things happen," she told IBTimes UK. "Even though we only got one seat, we still got a good share of the vote – so it hasn't dulled the mood. With the upcoming referendum, we've got our focus, we've got our fight. The general election result has not diminished the party."

Philip Busow, the chairman of Ukip Runcorn and Halton, shares Curtis's sense of disappointment but is positive about the future, like his young colleague. "I was very, very disappointed. I don't think so much in Ukip," the 62-year-old said.

"Generally, the voting system needs changing – when you can get 56 SNP MPs with fewer votes than Ukip it's absolutely scandalous. It was very clever with the Conservatives – how they got the scaremongering going over the SNP."

Philip Busow
Philip Busow, 62, is the chairman of Ukip Runcorn and Halton Ian Silvera/IBTimes UK

Busow also said the EU referendum, which the prime minister has promised to hold before the end of 2017, will put Ukip back on the political MP. "I see us getting our borders back, getting our identity back and [getting back] everything that has this country has been stripped of by the EU," he added.

Meanwhile, Ann Turner is expecting an electoral showdown with Labour at the Welsh Assembly elections in 2016. The 82-year-old argued Jeremy Corbyn's election will give Ukip an opening and Farage's party will be able to capitalise in the polls as the Islington North MP is expected to take Labour leftwards.

Turner, a branch secretary of Ukip Bridgend, said: "I come from Wales and the Labour Party thinks it owns Wales, but we came second in every consistency in the general election and we have got the Welsh Assembly, which we expect to get seats in – we are encroaching on their territory."

Corbyn is expected to be mentioned during Farage's keynote speech at 12pm BST but the left-winger has already got a mention from Ukip's Yorkshire chairman. "That's how you do it, Jezza", Judith Morris declared after delivering her rendition of God Save The Queen to open the conference.

Ann Turner
Ann Turner, 82, is the branch secretary of Ukip Bridgend Ian Silvera/IBTimes UK

As for Farage's own popularity, the Ukip leader has never been so well thought of among the faithful – if you take Kerrie Webb's word for it. Such is her commitment to her leader, the 38-year-old has tattooed the Eurosceptic firebrand's face on to her arm (main picture, top).

"He's a national hero," the former structural designer told IBTimes UK. "I think for the first time we have someone honest working in politics and I think he's working on behalf of the people instead of on behalf of himself, and his unafraid to stand up and say what he should say."