Relief, disbelief, despair and concern

 
Lib Dem candidate Mike Thornton  and UKIP candidate Diane James

Relief for the Liberal Democrats who held on despite everything.

Disbelief for UKIP who came close to an extraordinary mould-breaking victory and might have secured it if they'd believed it possible.

Despair for many Conservatives seeing themselves forced into third place in a seat they need to win to form a majority government in the future and by a party they now fear will rob them of that chance.

Concern for Labour who, even when the coalition is so unpopular, found themselves an irrelevant fourth.

Even though the Eastleigh constituency did not change hands, this by-election will change politics - spurring on those Tories who insist that David Cameron is driving their party over an electoral cliff.

Energising Nigel Farage and UKIP to believe and to claim that they are a new force in national politics.

Fuelling those who criticise Ed Miliband for not extending Labour's appeal enough.

And giving Nick Clegg a small respite after being forced into this by-election by a scandal, having his campaign overshadowed by another and being told he and his party were finished.

The result is a reminder that politics is still local - a popular local council and strong local party helped the Eastleigh Lib Dems to weather a national storm.

That storm will now switch its focus to the prime minister who will face one question again and again from his own MPs and activists - what on earth do we do about UKIP?

 
Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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