Some Conservatives had been dismissive of the impact of UKIP in the local elections. It is true they stood in a minority of seats – 700 out of nearly 5,000. They gained five seats, but lost five, and will be disappointed with their tally. But to conclude they were an irrelevance is to misunderstand their impact. They substantially boosted Labour's gains by their intervention. I have already given the examples of Plymouth, Thurrock and Dudley where their vote splitting has resulted in Labour rather than the Conservatives being in power. There may well be others from Labour's tally of 32 council gains.
They certainly helped Labour to gain its 823 new councillors. Take the example of Slough which was already a Labour council and where Labour strengthened their majority with eight gains. In the Langley St Mary's Ward the Conservative candidate lost to Labour by just two votes. The UKIP candidate had 331. Those who want the Labour Party to succeed would do well to make a donation to UKIP to help them contest more seats in future.
Another way to boost Labour is to denounce UKIP as swivel eyed and the same as the BNP, rather than to recognise that the a majority of people would like to have an in/out referendum on EU membership. The anger over the failure to provide this will have serious electoral consequences for the Conservatives. In two years time it is likely that local elections and the Euro Elections will be on the same day, meaning that UKIP could offer Labour an even bigger windfall in the Town Halls.
Then there is UKIP's impact in protecting the Lib Dems from the sort of losses to the Conservatives that took place last year. Chris Huhne will have been reassured that they are a strong force in his constituency – helping to prevent the Conservatives making any gains in the local elections there. If UKIP ensure people like Huhne get back then they make a coalition with the Lib Dems more likely.
My reason for supporting a referendum on our membership of the EU is not to maximise the number of Conservative councillors. It is because our membership of the EU is a growing disaster. I believe that sooner or later the referendum will be granted. But in the interim it is unfortunate that municipal socialism is being revived as part of the collateral damage of the Government's resistance to holding it.