The success of Ukip in the English council elections and South Shields by-election has signalled that the party is now a real political force south of the Border.
Ukip has evolved over the two decades since it was created from an anti-European Union pressure group into a fully-fledged party, which has now proved that it can succeed beyond European elections.
The leaders of all other political parties will now be considering how to respond, what to say and what to do in the face of the party’s rise.
To some extent, that is already under way – David Cameron has pledged a referendum on EU membership next term, for example. Ukip’s success is likely to see an “In-Out” referendum take place this parliamentary term, moving the UK closer to the exits with regards to the EU. It will also see the current UK government develop harder positions on immigration and law and order.
As we contemplate a referendum on our nation’s constitutional future, the choice for voters is clear. We can either continue to be part of a UK that will inevitably lurch to the right and withdraw from the EU, or be part of an independent nation that wants to play its full part in the world. Ukip’s members may have been called “clowns”, but they are having the last laugh