The first thing to say is despite the stupidity of his actions over speeding points and letting down all his colleagues and supporters in the Liberal Democrats, and leaving them with a by-election in the worse circumstances, Chris Huhne played a huge part in the Lib Dems winning the by-election in Eastleigh. He was an assiduous MP who worked very hard for all his constituents. His record of action meant local people were more forgiving of his failings and
Secondly, the local Lib Dem Councillors are obviously both popular and hard working. It would be true to say a lot of people voted Lib Dem becausee of their local record than because of their national policies. Nothing wrong with that, people vote for all sorts of reasons. But it would be wrong to overstate the degree of Lib Dem success - it was a great result for them and the new MP might expect a bigger majority come the General Election.
UKIP did very well, given a longer campaign, they could have won, but oddly, the Conservatives have been campaigning non-stop in Eastleigh for a long while in
Labour are getting away with downplaying their result - their excuse, they were third and couldn't win - well, tell that to UKIP who started 4th with just 4% of the vote and almost won. Labour did hold their share of the vote, which is all they need to do nationally at the general election to win if the Conservatives and Lib Dems are losing votes to UKIP. Truly Labour don't have to win seats like Eastleigh, but it is quiet similar to seats like Southampton where Labour have MPs or Portsmouth, where they used to have an MP.
UKIP did well getting the protest, none of the above vote - whether that will last, only time will tell. A win would have been a political earthquake, a second place as Liberal know, is not. Still UKIP have a lot of momentum on their side, so will will see where they go. I expect them to do well in the County Council elections this year and top the poll in the Euro Elections in 2014, but may still not elect a single MP at the General Election. I expect a lot of the anti-politics, non of the above protest vote may reluctantly vote Lib Dems or Labour come 2015. UKIP are not in control of events and it is the reaction of the other parties to UKIP success which will shape future politics.
The Conservatives did worst of all. They are now split as a party. There is little scope for compromise - either you wnat to be in the EU or you want out, either you support same sex marriage or you oppose it, either you buy in to compassionate conservatism, green issues and or your tend to undeserving poor, anti-windfarm, nothing can be done about global warming, cut overseas aid, etc
By-elections rarely predict general election results, but occasionally they can shape them. The Lib Dems will be happy if they can reduce the talk of them being wiped out at the General Election, UKIP will hope for a place in the Leaders debate and 'i agree with Nigel Farage mania' and no one calls a referendum on Europe. Labour will be happy to watch UKIP take more votes from the Tories than from Labour and the Conservatives, well, they will split some more. That is the trouble with insoluble problems, they are insoluble. Is it really 20 years since the Conservatives won a majority at a General Election ? If only that had supported reform of the voting system! Imagine the result in Eastleigh if voters had a second and third preference.