Now that was a really interesting election day. Not your usual nudge one way or another, or the media trying desperately to build something entirely predictable into a news story. It was a genuine story. And top line by some distance was the dramatic surge in support for Ukip. The South Shields result had been seen before. But to win around 25% of the vote in local elections across England was some result. This blog is never knowingly churlish so first up must be congratulations to Nigel Farage on the success of his party. Certainly there's probably an element of 'plague on all your houses' in this 25%, but that was some plague. And it may be that this will (to some extent at least) become a continuing feature of British politics. I hear the sound of rethinking across the British political firmament. Luckily, I've always adopted a policy of being friendly and generous to Ukip. In Montgomeryshire, Ukip stalwart, the late David Rowlands was a very good friend.
It was not a good night for the three mainstream parties - though the Conservatives certainly did no worse than expected. The seats being contested yesterday were last fought in 2009, when Gordon Brown and Labour were deeply unpopular. And its also usual that governing parties taking through unpopular policies (no matter how necessary) take a mid-term hit in popularity. But we still lost well over 300 council seats and came a poor third in the South Shields By-Election. No good pretending it was a great result.
Nor was it a good night for Labour. Despite its desperate performance in the 2009 election it made only modest gains - certainly less than commentators expected. Historical precedent tells us that yesterday's performance was not remotely good enough to anticipate victory in 2015. I suspect there will be more head scratching in Labour HQ tonight than in Tory HQ.
So too the Lib Dems. It lost over 12% of its vote compared to 2009, which was not good at all. And its performance in the South Shields By-Election was stunningly awful. Lib Dems are like ink stains where they are settled into constituencies. They take some shifting. But it was a very inconsistent result. On balance, I think this was the poorest performance of the day.
There is going to have to be some serious thinking about why there was such support for Ukip - and how to win our voters back. I was interested to hear Nigel Farage cite onshore wind farms as his first comment on Radio 4 after the 5.00 News. That would count big-time in mid Wales. I am a countryman, and no-one would ever describe me as part of any metropolitan elite - and I can see that Nigel Farage is aiming his appeal in my direction. As a general comment, I think my party should try to be attractive to me and my kind - a natural Conservative constituency.