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Parties counting the cost of Ukip surgeGetty

Westminster's big three political parties are facing significant challenges in the wake of local elections which showed Nigel Farage's Ukip had secured its place as the fourth force in British politics.

As widely predicted before the polls, the self-styled "people's army" took votes and council seats from all the main parties and Farage was ready to "stick his neck out" and predict his party would come first in the European parliament elections when results are announced late on Sunday night and Monday morning.

He also confirmed he would stand as a candidate for Westminster next year, "somewhere south of the river [Thames]", even suggesting Ukip might hold the balance of power in the House of Commons in 2015.

The local election results saw the other parties immediately engage in some internal wrangling with Labour, in particular, divided over the way it attempted to tackle Ukip and Ed Miliband's leadership style.

The Tories were back to arguments over the party's approach to Europe and whether there should be some sort of electoral deal with Ukip for the general election next year, a move ruled out by David Cameron.

Nigel Farage
Farage has predicted first place in EU pollMatt Cardy/Getty Images

And the Liberal Democrats were resigned to their humiliating fourth place which looks likely to be repeated, or worse, in the EU results, and which could place fresh strains on the coalition government as they seek to distance themselves from the Tories.

What the results confirmed was that angry and alienated voters had been determined to send a powerful message to the established political parties, that they were failing to listen to and engage with their concerns.

It seems certain the message will be reinforced when the European parliament election results are known and that will only intensify the pressure on the Labour and Conservative leaders to reassess their approach to Ukip.

That process started early, with Ed Miliband attracting criticism from within his own party over his alleged strategy of refusing to counter Ukip in the belief Nigel Farage's party would take votes from the Tories.

The attacks came from well-known critics who claimed the campaign had been ill-judged and unprofessional and failed to recognise the threat from Ukip. It was even reported one senior party figure had attacked Miliband as "weird".

The fact that Labour scored its best result in London for decades did little to ease the pressure on Miliband, particularly when the analysis of the vote share suggested the party was on 31%, only two points ahead of the Tories and not good enough for it to feel secure about its general election hopes.

It confirmed recent polls showing the party was losing its lead over the Tories as the economy continued to improve and that the general election race was pretty much neck and neck.

The same analysis put Ukip on only 17% , down on its previous performance in 2013, but party strategists pointed out the result had been skewed by the fact it had made no inroads in London, where it has little organisation or previous record.

David Cameron, meanwhile, faced renewed calls from his Eurosceptic wing for pre-election pacts with Ukip as a way of maximising the conservative vote. He was quick to reject the suggestions, insisting he was not about doing deals.

All the "legacy parties", as Farage has started calling them, admitted they needed to listen to voters' concerns, but it was unclear exactly what that would mean and there was the lingering suspicion that they hoped and believed the Ukip bubble would burst once voters concentrated on who to put into government in 2015.

That assumption is likely to be tested further with the outcome of the EU elections, but it is still possible Ukip's performance will indeed prove a flash in the pan and that, once voters have expressed their protest at the establishment parties, the party will fade.

But there was plenty of evidence in the campaign and the results to suggest this might not be the case.