Nigel Farage on the local election campaign trail.
All hail Ukip. As Farage fever sweeps the country, the political landscape of Britain is reconfigured today in what may be the most major shift in decades. Even before many councils declare their results, party leaders will be looking ahead to what the vote means for 2015.
The old truism that votes for protest parties melt away at general elections can no longer be relied upon, now that Ukip is gaining more than a quarter of the vote on average in the seats it has contested, as well as storming home to second place in South Shields, and so proving it can challenge Labour in its northern heartlands.
On yesterday’s showing, Ukip is now the party for Real Tories, rather than a niche for closet racists and golf-club ranters. As a repository for anger and for those alienated by the major parties, it has left the Lib Dems for dead. That should terrify David Cameron and Nick Clegg.
Yet Ed Miliband, whose early gains look useful rather than dazzling, also has cause for fear.
Yes, Ukip may push the Tories to the right and make them less electable, but a sizeable segment of Britain has declared itself fundamentally opposed to Mr Miliband’s vision.
Moreover, today’s results are the first sign that Britain is far from immune to the lurch towards extremism that has shadowed other European countries and been exacerbated by recession. For sure, Ukip is no Golden Dawn and Mr Farage no dangerous rabble-rouser.
Even so, his party’s performance invites comparison with the progress made by Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France.
So consider, this morning, what a Ukip Britain would look like. it would be a locked-down land, armed to the hilt, where good foreigners were repelled and bad ones expelled, no questions asked. It would be a country concreted over for extra jails (though never for high speed rail lines). It would be a quaint place â€“ an old curiosity shop of matrons and smoking rooms.
It would be a nation of wild spending, of derisory taxes for the rich and â€“ not least because all talk of climate change would be abandoned â€“ a country programmed for ruin. Welcome to Mr Farage’s Britain.
That future should not only alarm Ed Miliband. It should horrify us all.
We should all be frightened of Nigel Farage’s vision of Britain as a fortified Olde Englande theme park