There is no question that the day belongs to UKIP and Nigel Farage.

The party has gained more than 100 seats (compared with just 8 four years ago) and has attracted the support of about a quarter of those who turned out to vote.

There is a chance that it might beat Labour into second place in terms of the number of votes in the ballot box, but it is Conservative councillors who have been most vulnerable in individual seats.

Double figure losses to UKIP in both Lincolnshire and Norfolk were sufficient to deprive the Conservatives of overall control, and there were significant UKIP inroads in East Sussex and Essex too.

The areas with elections yesterday are traditionally seen as the Conservative heartlands, and they will still emerge with many more councils and councillors than any other party.

However, their share of the vote is down by more than 9% compared with 2009, back to a level last seen during the nadir of the John Major government in the mid 1990s.

But one difference between then and now is that Labour is not the undisputed beneficiary of Conservative woes.

The party won overall control in Derbyshire (its easiest target) and Nottinghamshire (just), but failed to get a majority in Lancashire and saw Staffordhsire stay in Conservative hands.

The picture in the urban south where Labour must win back several marginal constituencies at the next general election is similarly patchy.

A majority of votes but not a clean sweep in Harlow and Crawley; a failure to unseat the Conservatives in two key wards in Dartford, but a plurality of votes in neighbouring Gravesham.

Labour would probably have 'won' if this had been a general election, but its margin is much less comfortable than an opposition party needs two years out from a general election.

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband. Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

The Lib Dems will be relieved that the spotlight is off them this year. They continue to lose seats (steadily rather than dramatically this year) and made no progress at all in Somerset which had been touted as a gain.

In Bristol and Northumberland, two of the few councils where they were directly up against Labour, they fell back badly.

On the other hand, the party often fared better where it has MPs well embedded in the local community.

They scored more than 50% in party President Tim Farron's lake district seat, and easily held their ground against the Conservatives in Eastbourne and Cheltenham.

Liberal Democrat President Tim Farron. Credit: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Archive

However, although they have taken nearly three times as many seats as UKIP, they have only polled two-thirds as many votes despite a similar number of candidates.

All three major parties have searching questions to answer ahead of next year's European Parliament contests which are likely to present an open door to further UKIP success and publicity.