I have absolutely no idea where Eastleigh is. You would think that, in the interests of research, I would make the effort to find out but it doesn't matter. It really doesn't matter where it is, what matters is what it tells us.
And what it tells us is this; The Conservative party are now thoroughly unelectable.
Their policies are so discredited, their austerity measures clear now to the public as misguided and ineffectual in light of losing the much vaunted AAA credit rating that they were designed to shore up, that they are now unable to challenge in a seat that was theirs as recently as 1994. A seat that had become available due to the mendacity of the sitting Liberal Democrat MP and was fought against the backdrop of the Liberal leader's ambiguity over what he actually knew about these non specific rumours about Chris Rennard. For the last five years. Rumours that seem pretty damn specific from this remove.
So with a severely weakened Lib Dem proposition, a proposition that resulted in a 14% reduction in the Liberal share of the vote since 2010's general election, in a seat that could never be challenged for by Labour (okay, I checked, it's in Hampshire. Hampshire will always be Lib Dem at best, if not it will go to the Tories, it's not an option for Labour; John O'Farrell stood purely to cut his teeth in a by election) the Tories managed to be beaten into third place by UKIP's best ever performance in a Parliamentary contest.
The Liberal's claimed this was a 'stunning victory' against the odds. They shouldn't fool themselves, this was survival by default, this was a loss of votes which could have been much greater if there had been a compelling alternative.
The Conservatives are arguing that this is 'a protest vote', claiming that the elctorate were, by opting for UKIP, sending a message to their party that "these are tough economic times and they are hurting."
Well, yes, and yes and yes. Of course it's a protest vote. People are protesting. People will always protest against a government in a mid term election, it's the nature of politics. This, however, is a different type of protest. This is a revolt from the traditional Tory voters. The Liberal Democrats are clearly over, the disillusion with Nick Clegg was endemic even before this latest farrago engulfed him and displayed his lack of suitability for any form of leadership. That UKIP split the Conservative vote so easily on a night when they would have otherwise regained the seat is indicative of dissatisfaction within the Tory rank and file with their current direction.
The Tories are potentially headed for disaster at the next general election; their own voters are turning away from them and their austerity policies have isolated anybody above Watford who may have given the slightest consideration to a Conservative vote. UKIP are surely not convincing enough to garner any real quantity of votes at a real election. That way lies madness. The Liberal party is, through their leader's lust for power, his facilitation of coalition and his now apparent unreliability, a thoroughly spent force.
The next general election is Labour's to lose. It is time for Ed Milliband, sadly ineffectual to date, to step up and prove that he can be a leader in waiting. It is time for him to start convincing those whose support is wavering in the light of the failures of their traditional allegiances that he is the man to put their trust in.
For the love of God, don't leave us in a country where the balance of power is held by Nigel Farage and his xenophobic followers.