AS mixed metaphors go, it was not a work of art but aptly summed up the impact of Ukip's seismic result.

Nigel Farage said the leaders of the main UK parties were "like goldfish that have just been tipped out of the bowl onto the floor, desperately gasping for air and clinging on to the comfort blanket that this is a protest vote".

The six-hour delay before a distraught looking Nick Clegg was able to get back into his political element and give a response to the Liberal Democrats' drubbing showed which leader was hurting the most.

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He sought to defend the values of his party and the tough decision to get into bed with the Tories in the national interest and declared that just when its big decisions were being vindicated, "we're not going to buckle".

It took four hours for Vince Cable, who is on a trade trip to China, to insist there was no leadership issue. To change the pilot now would leave the LibDems in turmoil.

One party insider suggested the LibDems could lose a dozen or so of their seats at the General Election but, ironically, still emerge more powerful as a Coalition partner in 2015 to either the Tories or Labour.As for the other goldfish, David Cameron appeared the least oxygen deprived - he has the comfort of improving economic numbers.

Ed Miliband, who will be on the campaign trail in Essex today, perhaps has the most to worry about.

With less than a year to go before the General Election, his party is still only neck and neck with the Tories.

His pitch to try to wrest back the working class Labour voter who flirted with Ukip has to be carefully calibrated as it could alienate him from Middle England, where the 2015 election will be won and lost.

Mr Farage's people's army has moved on to the June 4 Newark by-election, where the Tories are defending a 16,000 majority.

The Ukip earthquake may rumble on but the question is whether it will stretch to the General Election and change Britain's political landscape for good.