UK Politics

Send in the clowns ....and the loonies ....and the fruitcakes.

Those David Cameron once insulted - but now says he respects - have given him and the Conservatives a bloody nose. Indeed, all the leaders of the big political parties are nursing wounds after so many chose to vote for "none of the above".

This has been a very English anti-establishment revolt. After all, its leader Nigel Farage is an ex public schoolboy from Kent, the son of a stockbroker who also worked in the City of London. However, like Boris Johnson or Alex Salmond he has found a way to reach those parts of the electorate others cannot reach.

No-one can know how durable his success will be but this election will kill the widespread assumption that UKIP is more a pressure group than a party... that it matters only in European elections... that it is merely a temporary home for disgruntled Tories.

The immediate effect will be to add pressure on the prime minister to sound and act like the sort of Conservative his activists want him to be - tougher on immigration, Europe and crime.

Longer term, today's results leave the next general election intriguingly open - a split vote on the right of politics might allow Ed Miliband to become prime minister with barely more than third of votes. Equally, the fact that Labour are not attracting many of those who are rejecting the Coalition means that its demise is far from guaranteed.

The people have spoken. Now it's time for the political classes to try to work out what on earth they meant.