Labour’s performance in the local elections is a blessing for the Conservatives. A less impressive showing in the polls for the Opposition a year out from the general election, with key target councils failing to go red and what John Curtice has described as a ‘failure to do well enough’ means the story is not just about the government getting a pounding. Number 10 sources are arguing that ‘Labour are actually going backwards’.
Some MPs long known to be vocal critics of Ed Miliband are taking to the airwaves to criticise him. Graham Stringer has attacked the Labour leader’s ‘unprofessional’ team. Simon Danczuk has just told LBC that ‘I’m not going to pretend that Ed Miliband as an issue doesn’t come up on the doorstep, of course it does’. It will become more dangerous if more senior figures or previously loyal backbenchers break cover.
Other Labour MPs are unimpressed with the way the party machine dealt with the Ukip threat. John Healey, who saw how well Nigel Farage’s party performed in the Rotherham by-election and has been urging his own party to take the threat seriously, spoke to Coffee House about his impressions. He said:
‘If you don’t equip people with good analysis and strong messages, things that are tested that they can use when they confront a challenge, then they do their own thing or indeed they do nothing.’
Healey is clear that his party can win back its lost supporters from Ukip, and that this could be easier than the task for the Tories. But it is conditional on the party doing the right things: the voters won’t just come flooding back. He says:
‘I think if we frame the campaign and the choice facing people in the right way we can be strong. We can bring our supporters we’ve lost back more easily – essentially the Conservative supporters have split on the Right, ours have fixed on frustrations across the piece on immigration.’
Whether the party gives the impression it can satisfy that condition will be key in whether the story that we remember from these European polls is Labour meltdown.