David Cameron should be hanging his head in shame.
He completely misjudged the ability of Ukip to attract the voters and made a complete shambles of dealing with this new threat at the Rochester and Strood by-election.
The result was a humiliating defeat of the Tories whose nearly 10,000 majority in this constituency at the last general election was simply blown away.
Cameron boasted beforehand that the Conservatives would “throw the kitchen sink” at this by-election campaign. Well, that was mistake Number One. There were something like 100 ministerial visits, including no fewer than five by the Prime Minister himself.
Has he not heard of overkill? Did it not occur either to him or his advisors, that the voters in this constituency would get fed up with the sight and sound of obsequious blue-rosetted people constantly banging at their front doors?
Nor does he appear to have learned that you do not lure defecting voters back into your fold by insulting them as “fruitcakes” and “loonies”. That really was a crass and potentially hugely damaging thing for him to have done.
It is hard to believe a man of Cameron’s considerable brain power did not realise this. I remember some fellow Tories looking shocked and incredulous when he actually delivered that insult. What Cameron – and others – have also failed to take on board, is that Ukip speaks the language people understand and promises to try to do what voters want, rather than the tendency of the two big parties to do what they think is good for the electorate.
They may accuse Ukip of jumping on every passing bandwagon. Well, what is so wrong with that? The object in politics is to win votes, and you do that by offering the voters what they are demanding.
So, it’s back to the drawing board for Cameron as Ukip threatens to change the face of British politics.
There is a real threat of another coalition government after the next general election – and that means a weaker government than an administration of a single party. We have seen over the past five years how policies have been weakened by squabbles between the Tories and coalition partners, the Lib Dems.
It will take more than Cameron hurling insults at Ed Miliband in the Commons every week for the Tories to regain popularity. The real threat comes not from Labour, but Ukip.