THESE are interesting times in the world of Brussels bashing.

Our old friends in the United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip) found themselves as the lead item in not one, but two, major stories this week. Not bad exposure in the week of a by-election.

The first tale was that strangest thing – an article about “political correctness gone mad” which appears to be based on fact.

In case you missed the story, it emerged at the weekend that Rotherham Council had taken children away from their foster parents on the grounds that the couple were members of Ukip.

You can hardly blame the party for milking this one for all it’s worth in the run-up to the by-election in the town tomorrow.

A second present dropped in Ukip’s lap on Monday when Tory vice-chairman Michael Fabricant suggested his party form a pact with the europhobes at the next election to save Conservative seats.

“Dump Cameron for Gove, then we’ll talk,” Nigel Farage replied mischievously.

Has the endorsement of Ukip’s leader harmed or hindered the promotion prospects of the ambitious education secretary? These days I’m not sure.

Because these two stories have brought to light the growth of Ukip which has been gathering pace for a few years now.

The eurosceptics consistently poll above the Lib Dems and have performed strongly in by-elections this year. As Mr Fabricant knows, Ukip could end up having a decisive impact on the next general election if it takes a significant number of Tory votes.

Slowly, but almost visibly, the party is moving from the fringes to the mainstream. But with greater credibility comes greater scrutiny.

Ukip, despite its healthy poll ratings, still gives the impression of being a party for drinkers who suffer from a politics problem.

If Farage’s Finest continue to attract disgruntled Conservative voters, don’t expect the Tories to stand idly by.

They’ll go on the hunt for embarrassing outbursts from some of Ukip’s more “colourful” members. They won’t have to look very hard.

When you start to read about these comments in the media, that’s when you know the Tories are really worried.