Labour has a strange response today to Ukip’s success. Ed Miliband has argued that ‘there is deep discontent with the way the country is run and a deep desire to change’, which almost suggests that the results have been resoundingly good for Labour. True, the party has won seats – 152 net gains so far – and reeled in big fishes from the Conservatives such as Hammersmith and Fulham Council. But Ukip is stealing votes from Miliband’s party, Labour is not doing as well as it could be expected to, and the Labour leader’s point seems to be as much about the factors driving voters to Ukip as it is about anything else.
On the BBC earlier, Ed Balls focused on the need for Labour to talk more about immigration and to show that it is ‘credible on these issues [immigration and job security such as zero hours contracts] in the general election fight’. He repeatedly returned to the issue of immigration and European reform, in contrast to Douglas Alexander, who has spent today arguing that Labour shouldn’t out-Ukip Ukip. The funny thing about that Alexander line, of course, is that Labour has already taken steps to toughen up its immigration policy in response to Ukip, so it is hardly trying to forge a distinctive identity on this policy area.
Balls and Alexander have historical tensions between them but as I blogged earlier, other MPs are frustrated at a lack of a Ukip 'toolkit' from party central command, even if Labour HQ is now taking on Ukip with more aggression.
Then this afternoon there was an amusing skirmish between John Mann and Michael Dugher about the party's strategy.