Where next for UKIP after election success?

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage smiles as he hears the results during the European Parliamentary elections count Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

UKIP are jubilant across the Meridian region. And although in the past European election success has been followed by a general election slump, they are convinced this time it's different. They genuinely believe by focussing their effort on 20 or so seats they can make a Westminster breakthrough.

Leading the charge, of course, will be Nigel Farage. When I suggested to him last night he'll stand in Kent, where UKIP's performance was spectacular, he said he'll be fighting a seat "near the seaside". That could mean Folkestone and Hythe, but it's more likely to be South Thanet.

The Conservatives did better in the southeast than many of them feared, but top candidate Dan Hannan said they should have a general election pact with UKIP. He's been saying that for years now - but it's unlikely to happen.

Labour won just one seat - before 2009 they always had two in the southeast - and although they were pleased to top the poll in places like Brighton and Reading, other "Labour areas" like Southampton and Hastings went UKIP. It wasn't Labour's greatest night.

And so to the Lib Dems. They were all a bit stunned - bewildered to be all but wiped out. Just one MEP remains - Catherine Bearder in the southeast. They knew the elections were going to be bad, but the results seem to have sent them into a state of collective shock. None of them seems sure what they should do next. Many Lib Dems I have spoken to don't think a message of 'keep calm and carry on' is good enough.

They were beaten by the Greens, who were quick to proclaim themselves "the real fourth party in politics" - before complaining media coverage of "that bloke down the pub" had been excessive - and unfair. It is worth pointing out that Ofcom set the rules for election coverage, and said UKIP (but not the Greens) had to be treated by broadcasters during the campaign as one of the "major parties". Which is why that bloke down the pub has been on your TV screens so much lately.

UKIP's new MEPs are heading to London now for a victory celebration. Then comes the tricky bit: they have to try to maintain their extraordinary momentum, especially in the South, all the way until general election day. Oh, and before all that, there's the small matter of the Newark by-election. If they win that, all general election bets are off.