UK & World News
Lib Dems Receive Drubbing As UKIP Celebrates
As a rule of thumb, voters move away from the party in power in off-year local elections to the benefit of the opposition.
We now know that this applies to coalition parties in power as well.
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats both lost seats in Thursday's local elections, and the Labour Party made gains.
In fact, it seems that the junior coalition partner gets double the drubbing of the senior.
However, the scale of the traffic between the main parties was smaller than usual because of the insurgency of UKIP, a fourth force overturning the calculations of the Westminster parties - and that's before the results of the European Elections on Sunday.
UKIP has no MPs, it won control of no councils, and its haul of council seats was less than half that of the Liberal Democrats, who had a very bad night.
But what matters is the direction of travel. Some 90% of UKIP's seats were gains, often in areas where it had never had a candidate before. The losses and gains of the other three parties were static compared to this.
UKIP most often upset Conservative hopes, but it cost Labour control of such councils as Great Yarmouth and Thurrock.
And it can no longer be portrayed as a splinter from the Conservatives.
UKIP made gains in Labour heartlands such as Rotherham and Hartlepool and came a strong second elsewhere in the Midlands and the North of England.
Labour had gains to boast of, especially in London, in councils such as Croydon, Cambridge, Redbridge and Hammersmith, but it also failed to secure other vital General Election targets such as Tamworth, Swindon and Walsall.
Ed Miliband's party came first in share of the vote, yet down in the low 30s Labour is short of the 35% at which cynics suggest Mr Miliband would be sure of a parliamentary majority. What's more, the lead over the Conservatives is slim.
Precedent suggests that there is usually a swing back towards the government party between the last local elections and the General Election itself.
Perhaps that explains why post-election jitters have been more pronounced in the Labour camp than amongst Tories or Liberal Democrats.
Nobody at Westminster can be confident of who is going to win the next general election - above all because nobody knows how much of UKIP's alleged protest vote will fade away when it comes to the first-past-the-post election in May 2015.
On the basis of this week's elections, we will be in hung parliament territory this time next year.
Neither David Cameron nor Ed Miliband have much to celebrate.