If nothing else, the success of UKIP in the English local elections has been a PR disaster for Labour. Without the emergence of a populist anti-establishment party led by a public schoolboy stockbroker, the routine protest vote against an incumbent government would have been hoovered up by Labour, who would have racked up a sizeable lead in the national popular vote. That would have been built on candy floss, but nevertheless it might have created the illusion in some Scottish minds that Ed Miliband was heading towards Downing Street. I haven't seen the BBC national projected vote shares yet (perhaps it's being revealed as I write this!), but if the changes reported in key wards are anything to go by Labour are going to have a lead over the Tories of somewhere in the region of 2%. That is an absolutely hopeless position for them at this stage in the electoral cycle.
The flip side of all this, though, is the effect on the opinion polls of the UKIP surge in the coming days and weeks. We know that most UKIP voters are disaffected Tories, so a snowball effect would have the potential of harming the Tories disproportionately and leaving Labour with a bigger lead (albeit on a very low share of the vote). But the fact that UKIP have done so well against Labour in the north of England may mean that the rules of the game are changing rapidly. If Farage's mob are no longer being seen as the Tory B Team in places like Sunderland and Hull, Ed Miliband's (and Blair McDougall's) worst nightmares may all have come true at once.