Thursday can’t come soon enough for shadow Cabinet loyalists. They believe that the Rochester by-election will provide Ed Miliband with some ‘breathing space’ and turn the spotlight on David Cameron’s troubles with his own side.
To be sure, losing another seat to Ukip will be bad for Cameron and the Tories. But based on conversations I’ve had in the past few days, I don’t think it will cause the crisis that many expected just a few weeks ago. Equally, Labour won’t gain any positive momentum out of a by-election in which it comes third.
There are, I say in the Mail on Sunday, two reasons why the expected Cameron crisis won’t materialise. The first is the difficult few weeks Ed Miliband has had and the narrowing in the polls. This has made Tory MPs more confident than they have been for a while about holding onto their own seats: governing parties that are level-pegging in the polls before the general election campaign has even begun, tend not to panic. Second, the recent Ashcroft poll which had the Tories winning Rochester back at the general election despite losing in the by-election by a double digit margin has reassured Tories that Thursday isn’t a dry run for next May.
The papers today are far better for Ed Miliband than they were last week. There are no new horror polls and the plotting against him has subsided, at least for now. But those relying on Rochester to change the political weather are likely to be disappointed.