Ed Miliband would never have seen it coming, but he’s starting his first PMQs of the autumn term in a jolly good place. Labour MPs that I’ve spoken to over the past few days are now panicking not about how they can convince voters to back them but what on earth they’re actually going to do when they are in government.
Naturally the Labour leader can attack on Douglas Carswell’s defection to Ukip, but there are two reasons why he might not want to make this his first question. The first is that he would surely want to contrast some of the serious things that Labour has been talking about this week – on class sizes and deficit reduction – with the Tory party tearing itself up over Europe and Ukip. That would require the first few questions to be on schools or another serious matter.
The second is that while Labour MPs are already stocking up on their supplies of popcorn to help them enjoy watching the Tory conference followed by the Clacton by-election, they should remember that Carswell has defected in a constituency that was once theirs, and where they now poll just 16 per cent. That the C2 voters in Clacton have moved from Labour to Ukip may well have been one of the things that spooked Carswell into defecting. But it is also something that senior Tories are taking a great deal of comfort from, and believe could be replicated in other constituencies where Labour relies on old/blue/working class Labour types who may not feel that the party still speaks for them.
And of course, just because the Tory party has lost its mojo, it doesn’t mean that Labour automatically picks it up. The challenge for Ed Miliband is just to get a hearing so that Labour appears to be the party with the energy, rather than Ukip.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.