•For years now, the counties of the South West have been politically distinct from the rest of the country. Historically, people in Devon and Cornwall particularly have voted Liberal Democrat in general elections, largely Conservative in local elections and more recently have been happy to vote for UKIP in European elections, returning two of the region's six MEPs.
The recent council elections have shown some distinct change in these patterns. Where UKIP stood in the elections, we averaged 16 per cent – more than double the Lib Dems result and more than half of the Tory figures.
In Plymouth itself, UKIP polled 20.6 per cent across the city having stood in every ward contested, coming second in a five wards.
It is now a settled fact that UKIP is the third party in the city. This is no mean feat for a party such as ours. Staffed almost entirely by volunteers, without access to significant funds, either from the taxpayer or from donors hoping for preferment.
How is it that a party, for long held in contempt by media commentators as somewhat below the salt and definitely a single issue group, has been able to rise so effectively and is now challenging the established political elites?
There is, of course, the obvious reason. For years, we in UKIP have been pointing out that the EU is a failure, both on its own terms and for this country. It is very hard for people to continue to caricature us as a party of fools, when the evidence that we were right is there on every news bulletin, and on the front pages of every newspaper.
And if UKIP were right about Europe, how about the impact of mass migration on services and the lower paid? How about a belief that education needs to accept difference and give opportunities for all, regardless of background or family wealth through a reintroduction of selection? How about the thought that businesses are not the enemy, but are vital for the growth of employment, and thus the life chances of every single one of us?
But UKIP are about so much more than that. To a UKIP member, the "I" letter of our name is so much more important than the UK, and certainly more than the Party. As a party, we are about hope and aspiration. And if we have aspirations for our country and our communities, it is because we trust those communities and the individuals within them.
If we believe that this country is better suited to make decisions over its future than others who do not have our interests at heart, how can we not believe the same of the counties and cities of our country? We believe firmly in localism and devolving real power down from Brussels, down from Westminster and down from the town halls into the place where power and control is best suited, into the hands of those over which it is exercised. You, the citizen.
That is why where we have been elected, we have seen the introduction of binding local referenda on issues of local importance. It is no surprise that when Lisa Duffy, our mayor in the small town of Ramsay, stood for election to her district council earlier this month, she didn't just win, she romped home.
Despite the local Conservative association shipping in two coachloads of activists into her ward to campaign against her, she scored a full 60 per cent of the vote. This proves that where people see the effects of UKIP in action at a local level, they like it.
People like being trusted with their own lives. They like that councillors work hard on the small affairs that loom large in our lives – small-scale anti-social behaviour, cutting of the petty regulations that so bedevil our lives and so on.
UKIP as a whole has a presumption in favour of the goodwill of people, rather than regarding them and their wishes with suspicion.
These messages shouldn't be radical but in the complacent political culture of the old establishment parties they are. UKIP's time is coming.
UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the European Parliament, Europe of Freedom and Democracy group, Rue Wiertz 60, 1047 Brussels, Belgium. - Website launched on 16.12.2009 Contact form for site-related issues