The people of Clacton have once again chosen Douglas Carswell as their MP, also making him the first elected House of Commons representative for the UK Independence Party. This means that if all else fails for UKIP they can still remove Clacton from the European Union and slash immigration into nearby towns. (A strange thing for voters to desire, bearing in mind the local economy relies so heavily on tourism.)
Party leader Nigel Farage is ecstatic - I was going to go to the pub today but I'm worried that he will have drank the place dry. After winning the Clacton by-election and narrowly missing a second victory in the Heywood and Middleton constituency, Farage has predicted that UKIP could hold the balance of power in next year's general election. In two years time, he also believes that he will give Barack Obama a run for his money.
More MPs resigning and joining UKIP are thought to be in the pipeline, too. The other parties are going to have to build an ark to protect their MPs against a flood of defections.
So, in the light of this upheaval of British politics (or "earthquake" as Farage likes to put it, seemingly oblivious to the fact that earthquakes can quite often devastate people's lives), what are the Conservatives, Labour, and Liberal Democrats doing to try and protect themselves? Er, not a lot.
To be fair to the Lib Dems they have got bigger issues to be concerned about, as their poll ratings continue to plunge deeper than that fracking drill burrowing underneath our homes. But Labour and the Tories seem to prefer to continue squabbling between each other, brushing aside the threat of UKIP like an old acquaintance.
Ed Miliband stated that Labour would not become complacent to the growth of UKIP, but continued to make petty remarks about the Conservatives losing the Clacton by-election in "their own backyard." Is he not aware that Labour won the Heywood and Middleton vote by securing just 2% more votes than UKIP? If I were in his shoes, I'd be pretty worried.
David Cameron was similarly trivial: "What last night demonstrates is that if you see a big UKIP vote you end up with […] Labour in power." If I had a pound for every time a Conservative MP has come out and said that voting UKIP will result in a Labour government I'd be able to plug the budget deficit myself (well, not quite.) The Conservatives’ ideas of replacing the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights and promising an EU referendum are half-hearted attempts to regain lost voters - but they won't work. If voters (and MPs for that matter) believed that these plans would be implemented then they wouldn't have switched support to UKIP in the first place.
It's this sort of complacency and ignorance that is causing more and more people to support UKIP. Nigel Farage (as he seems to be the only UKIP member able to speak publically) makes statements that the public approve of and actually believe will come true. His 'man of the people' act is coming incredibly close to overshadowing the seemingly naïve (or maybe just plain stupid) Cameron and Miliband and is threatening to transform UKIP from a simply protest party into a powerful political force.
There will be more defections and there will be more UKIP MPs - but it definitely won't be just the Tories who will suffer: when Farage said that UKIP were parking its tanks on Labour's lawn, he wasn't joking.
By James Morris