Four thoughts on tonight's European election results

Ukip leader Nigel Farage arrives for the count in Southampton. Credit: PA

By Tom Bradby: Political Editor

So it has turned out pretty much as expected.

Ukip is having a stonking night, Labour is not doing as well it should, the Tories could be doing worse and the Lib Dems are in freefall.

So what does it mean? Here are some thoughts:

(1) Looking at the performance of the far right National Front in France and Ukip here in the UK, it is possible that Europe's leaders might finally give consideration to some substantial reform, particularly on issues like immigration.

That said, the result in Germany looks very much like a vote for business as usual and, given that the free movement of people is one of the founding principles of the EU, it is hard to see what obvious steps they can take on the really controversial issues.

(2) Tonight's vote might generally help David Cameron in his bid to wrestle back powers from the EU.

(3) For all the talk of Ukip's rise and the idea that they were taking votes from everywhere, the truth (as revealed in Tory Peer Lord Ashcroft's detailed poll today) is that the majority are former Tory voters.

Seventy percent of today's Ukip supporters would apparently rather see Cameron as Prime Minister than Ed Miliband, so the key question remains whether they will see through their rebellion or be seduced or frightened back into the Tory fold.

(4) The Lib Dems really have done terribly. Nick Clegg will survive - just. But his party is not in great shape.

It doesn't help that the junior coalition partner in Germany is having rather a good night.