This week political commentators have been having a laugh at the expense of Italian voters for giving more than half their votes to "two clowns": Beppe Grillo and Silvio Berlusconi.
Now they have turned their humour on Eastleigh where 11,571 voters (27.8%) came amazingly close to making Diane James Britain's first Ukip MP.
Though leaving the EU and reversing immigration may be the UK Independence Party's key policies, it also endorses a 40% rise in defence spending, doubling the number of prison places, tax discs for bicycles and a £90 billion programme for building nuclear power stations. Avowedly sceptical about man-made climate change, it would radically roll back renewable energy projects and invest instead in shale gas. Ukip also backs independence for Taiwan, which might not help the UK's burgeoning trade with China. Its extravagant spending plans would be funded apparently entirely from savings resulting from leaving the EU, regardless of the fact that countries like Norway pay through the nose for ongoing access to EU markets. Little wonder the party has never gained any traction in Scotland.
In the end the Liberal Democrats held on because, despite the headwinds buffeting the party leadership and the dramatic fall from grace of previous incumbent Chris Huhne, the party had an excellent local candidate in Mike Thornton and ran a well-funded, well-organised campaign in a seat they knew they could not afford to lose.
This was a bad result for Ed Miliband, whose "one nation Labour" policy did not appear to inspire these south coast voters. His party trailed in a poor fourth. But as the party's 258th target seat, it was never remotely in reach. Besides, strictly speaking Labour is a "three-nation party", with seats in Wales and Scotland as well as the Midlands and the north, that are far more attainable than this one. The potential silver lining for Labour is that if this result pulls the Tories to the right, it opens up more middle ground for Mr Miliband.
The biggest loser in Eastleigh was not Labour but the Conservative Party, which came third. It knows it needs to win seats like this if it is to have a hope of winning outright in 2015. Indeed, the Tories have never won a General Election outright without winning Eastleigh, ever since the seat was created 58 years ago.
The danger for the Tories is that this result makes David Cameron look as if he is a loser. It will fuel doubts about his leadership and make him vulnerable to attacks from his Eurosceptic right-wing, many of whom now fear for their own seats, come the next General Election.
It is now clear his offer of a future referendum on EU membership has not either bought them off nor clipped Ukip's wings. And the result intensifies pressure on Chancellor George Osborne, who in his forthcoming Budget will be tempted to appease the right-wing, who are demanding extra helpings of austerity. Instead, he should respond to those demanding a plan for growth and some protection for the poorest.
However, it would be a mistake for Mr Cameron to read too much into this result. Voters use such polls to make protests, resuming normal service at general elections. As Tory chairman Grant Shapps observed, governing parties do not take seats in by-elections.
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