Walk round the Commons today and it is striking that Tory MPs are in relatively good spirits while Labour ones looks distinctly more downcast. At first this seems odd, after all it is the Tories who have just lost another seat to Ukip. But in the battle of the weak that is British politics right now, Labour have had the worst of the past twenty four hours. Obviously, it is Ukip who have the best of it, but the Tories have come off rather less badly than Labour which is what counts for relative success in Westminster at the moment.
In the end, the Rochester result wasn’t as bad for the Tories as they feared it would be a fortnight ago. Ukip’s seven point margin of victory means that the Tories have a strong chance of taking the seat back in May. Tory MPs also seem, for what it is worth, more confident today that there won’t be further defections than they were yesterday.
Labour, for its part, did slightly worse than expected, polling just 17 percent of the vote. But what is really causing Labour pain is the ongoing row over Emily Thornberry and that tweet. Having Thornberry resign has not stopped the tweet from being a story and some on the Labour side fear that the leadership has made this a bigger story than it otherwise would have been by getting her to step down. (If you doubt that she was pushed, just listen to what Lucy Powell said to Andrew Neil on the Daily Politics):