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Analysis: Ukip shakes the kaleidoscope of British politics

The kaleidoscope of British politics has been well and truly shaken with Ukip not only making sweeping gains across England and Wales but also securing its first seat in Scotland.

As the first votes began to come through Ukip's colour purple began swiftly to top local polls across England and Wales with authority after authority showing large gains for Nigel Farage's anti-EU party. As one of Ukip's new MEPs Patrick O'Flynn remarked, the "political earthquake" had begun.

The deep fears at the pro-EU Liberal Democrat HQ was that the party would face a total wipe-out; an indication of how bad things were when it emerged it had failed to get a seat in its south west England heartland.

The shift was also reflective of a wider Euroscepticism across parts of Europe with France's far right National Front tipped to come top with a poor showing from the ruling Socialists. Underscoring the sense of another political earthquake rocking France, President Hollande announced an emergency Cabinet meeting this morning.

In Scotland, the Farage factor secured Ukip its first elected representative north of the border.

Alex Salmond had sought in the last few days of the campaign to paint the contest in Scotland as the SNP versus Ukip, calling on voters to stop Mr Farage and his party's "appalling politics of intolerance" in their tracks. But it didn't work.

One pitch by the Yes camp has been in the referendum campaign that somehow Scottish values are different to English ones. But the Ukip surge across Hadrian's Wall suggests otherwise.

Yet while Mr Farage can seemingly count on a growing band of supporters north of the border and believes that Ukip's growth in Scotland will help the No campaign, many in the anti-independence camp will be wincing at the arrival of their new bedfellow.

If it is hard enough for Labour politicians to be seen allied to the Tories in the quest to keep the Union, how much harder will it be to say "I agree with Nigel".

While the First Minister failed in his call to arms against Ukip, its presence in Scotland will provide him with another target in his bid to win independence.

As he argued there was a "world of difference" between Ukip coming fourth and picking up 10% of the vote in Scotland, compared to coming first and picking up 30% of the vote in England, Mr Salmond made clear he would go on attacking what he regarded as the "backward-looking, regressive politics" of Ukip.

While David Cameron is not planning an Hollande-style emergency Cabinet meeting this morning, his party was hit by the first wave of Ukip tremors in light of the anti-EU party's gains in the English local elections and then the Euro poll.

A shift to the right seemed inevitable and it was signalled by Home Secretary Theresa May, who confirmed stronger measures on migrants such as deporting them if they failed to get a job within six months, were now being considered.

David Davis, a senior Tory backbencher, suggested the party should promise an in-out referendum on EU membership not in 2017 as planned but in 2016 but Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, claimed this would be impossible as a re-elected Prime Minister Cameron would need time to get the main EU players on board for his planned reforms.

The second wave of Ukip tremors quickly overran Ed Miliband with serious question-marks raised by colleagues about not only the lack of emphasis on fighting the Ukip threat but also the effectiveness of his own leadership.

An unnamed Shadow Minister suggested Mr Miliband was "damaged goods" while influential peer Lord Glasman warned: "Labour is in danger of losing England."

While the leadership would have heartened by the party's showing in the London local elections and by a poll of marginal seats, which showed a 6.5% swing away from the Tories, there is deep anxiety within Labour ranks that Mr Miliband is simply not connecting with the public and that the economic numbers are, electorally, beginning to run away from Labour.

The Conservatives were swift to point out that their main opponents were failing to break through in their target seats.

Last night, the third wave of tremors appeared to be rocking Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats to the core with Tim Farron, the party President, acknowledging that the Lib Dems could end up losing all 11 seats. To a committed Europhile like the Deputy Prime Minister, this will be a bitter blow.

You know the Liberal Democrat leader is in serious trouble when Paddy Ashdown is called upon to defend him against internal assaults. Having lost more than 300 seats in the local elections in England, the party was bracing itself for a drubbing in the Euro poll if not complete annihilation.

Around 200 party figures have signed an open letter to the Liberal Democrat leader, calling on him to move aside to allow a new leader to be chosen in the summer, while MP John Pugh said the party's "high command is in danger of seeming like generals at the Somme".

Despite the massive turbulence, Mr Clegg is unlikely to be shifted. Even the left-leaning Mr Farron was resolute in his support for the embattled leader, making clear any challenge would be "absolutely foolish".

Mr Hammond insisted the votes of the last few days had been skewed by a significant number of "lender voters" who would abandon Ukip and return to the Tory fold for the 2015 general election.

This is the 64,000 euro question. Is the Farage phenomenon temporary, a mere excuse to give the political Establishment a bloody nose, or will it last until May 2015 when it could dilute the votes of all the main parties and make another Coalition the most likely outcome?

British politics just became a whole lot more unpredictable.

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