The local election results are not really as bad for the Labour party as some seem to believe (I am looking at a Daily Mail front page that claims his own shadow cabinet are now "savaging Red Ed"). Perhaps the outcome is not as positive as campaign managers would wish this close to a general election, but their party has over 300 more councillors, and the coalition parties have lost over 500 (the Conservatives being down in excess of 200, and the Liberal Democrats over 300). UKIP's gains, of about 160, are of course remarkable, but should really be accounted as Conservative losses, rather than Labour failures.
On this showing the Labour party will do very well at the general election next year. Nor is this result necessarily the beginning of a new age of multi-party politics, as some others believe. Indeed, the straightforward or general interpretation, that the Liberal Democrat migration has been towards Labour and the Conservative migration towards UKIP, suggests the contrary. In other words, it suggests that the left-leaning (broadly statist) vote is concentrating (on the Labour party), while the right-leaning (broadly individualist) vote is dispersing. There are two probable outcomes from this situation.
Firstly, if the trend continues this will result in a relatively large Labour party facing an opposition composed of a number of small and medium sized parties. This would give Labour a dominant position, even if weakened by Scottish independence, since the fragmented parties are very unlikely to co-operate.
Alternatively, the tide may turn, with the Conservative vote reconcentrating to a considerable degree, not least because property owning voters may realise that the Labour party now presents a real, indeed an unprecedented, threat. - Ed Miliband is an ideological socialist of a style, a European style in fact, that Britain has never seen before in a position of power; he will not be afraid to break with the milk-and-water Non-Conformist Christian roots of the Labour party; he will, not, in other words, be afraid to break eggs.
However, the tide returning to the Liberal Democrats would be much weaker, and they would be significantly diminished, perhaps to the point of evanescence. The two-party system would return, still stronger than it was before the Liberal-Democrat's slow climb to power.
I think this second scenario is the more probable, and though Scottish independence would be helpful, it is to a large degree contingent on David Cameron suddenly revealing a fresh character, or the appointment of a new leader capable of doing a deal with UKIP, or, to be more precise, with UKIP voters.
My own suspicion is that if Cameron remains leader the first scenario, in which the Labour party appears as the sole nationally dominant party, is very likely, particularly if Scotland votes NO in September. The problem for the Conservatives is that even when faced with the near prospect of an authoritative Miliband government many of their one-time supporters will find it emotionally difficult to vote Conservative so long as he remains leader. Cameron seems cursed with a negative aura, an anti-charisma, that makes contempt for him both easy and guilt-free.
In any case, the view sketched here suggests that the UKIP phenomenon is a prelude to a re-concentration of political power in either one or two parties, not refraction into a cozy long-tail rainbow with something tailored for everybody. On the contrary, we appear to be entering a period of political polarisation with a consequent monochromatic limitation of choice. The public recognition of emergencies often produces such reactions, in the face of external threats; in this case it will be a symptom of a hitherto undiagnosed and poorly understood internal emergency. Something is wrong; we will shortly find out what it is. With luck it will be nothing more than indigestion.