A new-look political map of the Westcountry will emerge today as the results of local elections will reveal whether the UK Independence Party's surging poll rating will translate into electoral success.
After polling stations closed at 10pm last night, the results of all-out elections at Cornwall Council, Devon County Council and Somerset County Council are expected between lunchtime and 6pm.
The Conservatives have held both Devon and Somerset – and led the coalition with Independents on Cornwall – since 2009.
But the Tories are braced to lose hundreds of seats across the country in protest at a mid-term Government and as the UK Independence Party (UKIP) raids its vote.
UKIP's Devon chairman Steve Crowther said voters were flocking to them to "stick up two fingers to the other parties", but warned the first-past-the-post electoral system meant it might struggle to get its candidates elected even its share of the vote increased.
The Liberal Democrats, who consider the South West to be their power base, could also be stung by its involvement with unpopular government policies. The party has targeted the region but Andrew George, a Cornwall Lib Dem MP, admitted the Tories would have to perform "catastrophically" to be the biggest group in the Duchy again.
Millions of people were expected at the ballot box in England and Wales – with a bout of long-awaited sunshine boosting turnout – as 2,300 seats are contested in 27 county councils and seven unitary authorities.
But at the polling station at Truro Methodist Church, officers reported that by mid-afternoon just 84 out of 1,233 people registered had voted – although that excluded postal voters. One voter in Truro speaking to the Western Morning News said they were voting Green Party – which has expectations of winning its first seat in Cornwall – and said: "The Green Party is the only one which actually appreciates and takes a comprehensive approach to the issues surrounding climate change. All the other parties around here pay lip service to it."
In Devon, Labour worked hard in Exeter with a team of up to 18 activists and MP Ben Bradshaw knocking on doors, while the Lib Dems said they were campaigning right up until the polls closed.
Candidates who spoke to the WMN claimed the Conservatives seemed not to have staged a very strong campaign in what is their heartland.
Areas normally "plastered" with Tory posters and placards appeared puzzlingly vacant, one independent activist said.
In East Devon, where some expect a protest vote against the ruling Tory administration, there were signs that recent controversies were encouraging large numbers to vote.
A string of embarrassing stories in the past year saw the district council branded a "one-party state" and according to critics, locals are set to punish the Party in the polling booth. In Feniton, the ward left vacant in March when controversial councillor Graham Brown resigned after being captured on hidden camera boasting of his ability to secure planning permissions, turnout was said to be past 50%. One source said: "This figure was hit mid-afternoon and didn't even include postal votes so turnout could eventually be as high as 60%."
Political watchers will be keeping a keen eye on UKIP. Mr Crowther, chairman of the party in Devon, who is standing in Braunton, North Devon, said: "There is no doubt that UKIP will do well – in Devon, in the South West, nationally.
"What that means in terms of seats we just don't know. UKIP's growth has been consistent across the country, which is a problem because it means we don't get spikes.
"On the doorsteps and on the streets it is clear we are attracting people from all political traditions, even third-generation Liberal activists."
Mr George, Lib Dem MP for St Ives, said: "I don't think for one minute we're going to be the majority party in Cornwall.
"And I don't think, unless the Conservatives do catastrophically, we're going to be the biggest group either.
"Not when we are in a coalition Government and they're throwing everything at us."