UKIP has seen a sharp surge in popularity with early results from the local elections showing it has beaten the coalition parities into an embarrassing third and fourth place in several wards.
In the South Shields by-election, Nigel Farage’s party took 24 per cent of the vote in a Labour safe seat that they did not even contest in the 2010 general election.
Labour won the by-election, taking place because former foreign secretary David Miliband – brother of party leader Ed – quit as an MP to run an NGO in New York, with a 50 per cent majority.
The Conservatives got just 11.4 per cent of the vote.
In the local elections seen as a crucial mid-term test for the Lib Dem and Conservative coalition partners, UKIP came a strong second in several wards.
In Hayling Island, Hampshire UKIP secured 36 per cent, almost taking the seat from the Conservatives who held it with 43 per cent.
In Holbeach, the Conservatives narrowly held on to their seat with 45 per cent, with UKIP gaining 42 per cent.
Many view the results as protest votes, with those who traditionally voted Lib Dem being forced to choose UKIP as the best anti-establishment option.