They will doubtless have their day on Thursday, may well make electoral gains, and will certainly claim that the UKIP is now a serious political force. That claim will be utter, unmitigated, fully-fledged nonsense. Who now takes seriously the Green Party, which gained 14.9 per cent of the vote in the 1989 European elections?
The truth is that the electorate is sophisticated, and sees Thursday's polls as an opportunity to give Mr Blair and - in some areas - Mr Howard a kicking. The voters regard local government as more or less powerless, and the European Parliament as irrelevant: if these elections have any meaning, therefore, it will be as a protest vote, a collective act in mischief-making and a means of sticking two fingers up at the political establishment.