So, a by-election was held next door to my patch, in South Shields. Two facts struck me.
1. The BNP candidate, Lady Dorothy MacBeth Brookes (I kid you not - check it yourself), is pictured below. I think she has a problem in addition to being a racist and so forth.
She still got 711 votes. Of those, 703 were from avid fans of the American stage musical who thought they were reserving tickets for a amateur production of 'Showboat'.
2. The Labour candidate got far fewer votes than the 'gone off to America to be rich' David Miliband. This is because a. the turnout was far lower than at a general election, b. protest votes always prosper at by-elections, and c. even loyal Labour voters don't like sitting MPs flouncing off to America to be rich in what amounts to a fit of pique.
No doubt UKIP's second place will be mentioned again and again. But since it was less than half the Labour vote on a turnout of less than 40 per cent, it's not that significant. Low turnouts - like those in council elections - favour fringe parties. General elections don't, and if Nigel Farage seriously thinks he'll get to Westminster in a by-election he's sadly deluded. He can either drive the Tories into third place in a Labour seat (given that the Lib Dem vote has collapsed almost everywhere), or he can undermine the Tories and let Labour in.