An astonishing night for Ukip and for British politics

Douglas Carswell, his wife Clementine and Ukip party leader Nigel Farage last night in Clacton. Credit: Press Association

As Ukip prepares to enter Parliament for the first time, leader Nigel Farage reflects on his party's byelection success last night in Clacton, where Douglas Carswell was elected MP, and also in Heywood and Middleton, where Labour held their seat by a small majority of 617 votes.

By Nigel Farage: Ukip party leader

What an astonishing night. A night where British politics truly looks as if it has changed. Wherever you look in this great land of ours, the Ukip insurgency is breaking through.

Douglas Carswell’s result in Clacton is, as Professor John Curtice put it, “seismic”. Sixty per cent of the vote in a place where we did not even stand last time. The biggest single increase of vote in British history, and one of the greatest swings to boot.

Of course much of the credit for this remarkable result is due to the diligence and hard work of Douglas himself. As I have walked around Clacton I have seen the way in which he is greeted by people as we walk down the street.

Young and old, from all backgrounds. And they talk to him because he is a doer, more than a talker. In part that is why Douglas joined Ukip, because he sees Ukip as a party of doers not talkers. People, when they do talk, mean what they say.

But Douglas is more than a great constituency MP, though he is certainly that. He is also one of most imaginative and clearest thinkers in contemporary British politics.

Anybody who has read his books will know that his vision is one of a modern, competitive, decent and connected country.

A free country of free people, making decisions for themselves and being Government’s masters rather than its supplicants. As he is fond of saying, his boss is not the party, but his electorate.

And it is pretty clear that the people of Clacton like to be the boss. But last night wasn’t just about the remarkable vote on the coast of Essex. But almost more remarkable was John Bickley’s result in Heywood and Middleton.

Taking the Ukip vote from 2.6% to 38.7% in a staunchly solid Labour seat was a brilliant performance, and I am sure that in the not too distant future we will see John on the green benches.

This result isn’t just remarkable in itself, but strikes at the heart of the claims of both the Labour and Tory elite about Ukip. Yes we can win in Labour areas. Because Ukip is now tearing great holes in the old Labour vote in the north of England.

The truth of what has happened in the North today is that if you are anywhere north of Birmingham, if you vote Conservative - you get Labour.And we have to remember that this wasn’t any seat, nor at any time.

This is a safe Labour seat, in the run up to an election when they, Labour, are the opposition.

At any other time this should have seen a Labour landslide. But what it shows instead is that Ukip is here, here to stay, and is a threat to the entire tired political establishment.

Nigel Farage is the leader of the Ukip party. His views do not necessarily represent those of ITV News.