As the scale of the UKIP achievement continues to be exaggerated, here are more of my branz on the matter.
For all their success in the local elections, the Yuckers are unlikely to replicate anything like this in the parliamentary General Election in 2015. First Past The Post dooms most small parties. Look at the electoral history of the Liberal Democrats - polling 20% of the vote, and getting less than 10% of the seats. They may poll 20% across the country, but their only impact may be to split the right wing vote. The difference between South Shields and Eastleigh suggest it is, fundamentally, appealing to right wing voters.
The move towards the UKIP appears to be in traditionally conservative (small c) areas which either voted Tory since time immemorial, or Lib Dem as the alternative, as they would never, ever vote Labour. This happens in rural Scotland as well where conservative, pro-union Scots vote Lib Dem because they hate the Tories and Labour equally
What happened last night was essentially, a protest vote, not a genuine vote in support of UKIP policy. People are angry with the coalition and are voting against it, not for the UKIP. And, it is important to reiterate, Labour wwould never have a look in in the areas where the local elections took place, just as it would necver have had a look in at Eastleigh.
South Shields showed there isn't much movement from Labour to the UKIP. All we're seeing is the right wing vote reallocating itself. Probably, massively to the detriment of all three right wing parties.
Which will make 2015 wildly unpredictable, as it may come down to whether the right vote is so split it allows Labour to grab seats that would normally be off their target list.
The Yuckers might get a few seats at the election but I don't think they will get many because from now until the election they are (probably) going to be under continual attack from the Tories and / or their appeal to voters will wane.
Farage pretty much conceded he's going to be nothing more than a historical footnote when the UKIP was compared to the SDP in the 80s. He pointed out that the SDP 'won' in the long run as Tony Blair was effectively an SDP Prime Minister. Yes, Nige, but that was 20 years later and he wasn't the leader of the SDP.
I think Farage, if he is smart and picks a good seat, might be in with a shot. Maybe a couple of others. But I don't think they could hope to get into double figures. Also, that woold require them to concentrate most of their resources in these key seats and so their national profile would slip. So they might grab a couple of Southern seats while their overall share of the vote declines, oddly.
The problem for the UKIP isn't the Tories or Labour, but the idiot electoral system. It puts them in a position where, unless they can win over the majority of the Conservative vote in seat after seat, they face being left with very little in terms of representation.
That cuts both ways, of course - I do think a few of the smarter Tories might be reflecting on how they sank the Alternative Vote campaign and wishing they'd gone for it. Alternative Vote would allow all disaffected Tories to vote for the UKIP as first choice - and Conservative as second, meaning the number of seats in jeopardy from a split vote would be minimal.
I really do think the party that will come out of this best will be Labour. They won't deserve it, as they won't have done anything to earn it, but they will benefit. They will benefit from the split in the right wing vote, from the fact the Tories will make themselves hideous and ugly and unelectable to stop more bleeding to the UKIP (though I don't think the support they are losing are people who have suddenly decided to be anti-immigration or quasi-racist; a lot of the new UKIP support were Lib Dems in 2010 and expressing anger with the government) and because of the resources that will be diverted to fighting the UKIP.