The future of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party was called into question tonight, as it sensationally found itself pipped for seventh place in the South Shields by-election by (and I'm not making this up) the Liberal Democrats.
Chastened Loony candidate Alan "Howling Laud" Hope commented : "I must admit I just didn't see that one coming. Finishing in eighth place is one thing, but to lose to Clegg's mob has always seemed unthinkable - until now. If something like this can happen, then no Loony stronghold can be considered safe at the next general election. Our long-cherished dream of compulsory tracking devices in hairgrips could be fading fast."
Election expert John Curtice went even further, suggesting that the party's humiliating defeat at the hands of a "comedy" candidate marked the final confirmation that "the strange death of Loony England" is well underway.
Meanwhile, the Lib Dems' unexpected seventh place raised hopes that Nick Clegg's party might even save a deposit or two at the general election, possibly somewhere in Cornwall.
The result in full -
Labour 50.4% (-1.6)
UKIP 24.2%% (+24.2)
Conservatives 11.5% (-10.1)
Independent - Khan 5.4% (+5.4)
Independent Socialists 3.0% (+3.0)
BNP 2.9% (-3.6)
Liberal Democrats 1.4% (-12.8%)
Official Monster Raving Loonies 0.8% (+0.8)
Independent - Darwood 0.2% (+0.2)
Swing from Conservatives to UKIP - 17%
Swing from Labour to UKIP - 13%
Swing from Conservatives to Labour - 4%
Swing from Liberal Democrats to UKIP - 19%
Swing from Liberal Democrats to Official Monster Raving Loonies - 7%