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UK Elections: Ukip is deciding the general election result - but not the way anyone expected

If Liberal Democrat defectors are switching to Ukip and not Labour, Ukip is Labour's problem, not the Tories'

Ukip leader Nigel Farage celebrates St George's Day with a pint in the Northwood Club in Ramsgate (Getty Images) 

Usual caveats apply: it's still early, it's only an exit poll etc etc. But even on the early evidence, there are signs of a fascinating trend in these election results, a trend that suggests Ukip really has been the decisive force -- just not quite in the way most people expected.

It starts with the collapse in the Lib Dem vote. The destination of Lib Dem switchers has always been one of the most important aspects of this election. Labour had hoped and assumed that most of those former Lib Dems would go to Labour. But it may be that they're actually going to Ukip.

In three seats in Sunderland, and one in Swindon, the results show the Lib Dem vote collapsed but Labour didn't benefit much. The Ukip vote, meanwhile, jumped.

Key party policies
Rapid referendum on Britain's membership for the European Union
Control immigration with points-based system, cap of 50,000 skilled migrant workers per year and five year ban on unskilled immigration
Meet Nato target of spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence
Extra £3 billion for the NHS per year
No tax on the minimum wage

At a glance, going from Lib Dem to Ukip looks like a big jump: from a broadly left-wing party to a right-wing one. But actually, it makes a certain sense: the Lib Dems were the anti-establishment party in 2010, Ukip are the anti-establishment party now.

Some Labour people believe it's happening. Alan Johnson, a former Labour Cabinet minister, says this: "The Lib Dem collapse hasn't come to us, some has gone to Ukip, some has gone to Tories."

UKIP only live blog

If this is a national trend, it's a disaster for Ed Miliband. He was relying on Lib Dem switchers to put Labour on level pegging with the Tories. If they're going elsewhere, his entire strategy for the election is flawed.

It also turns on its head another accepted truism of modern politics, that Ukip is primarily a problem for the Conservatives. In fact, Ukip is looking like the force that killed Ed Miliband's hopes of power -- and kept David Cameron in power

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