When politicians have a bad election night they tend to associate themselves with whatever good news they can. Hence Tory chairman Grant Shapps the day after the election visiting Kingston-upon-on-Thames to highlight the Tories’ success in winning it against the tide of purple. Nick Clegg obviously didn’t go anywhere.
The election loss of Thurrock – Labour’s number two target seat – and one by his own admission they have to win if he is to have any chance of returning to Downing Street in 2015, is a wound to Ed Miliband. His former personal aide, the ex-BBC Today programme reporter Polly Billington is the local candidate, isn’t that why today Ed Miliband is set to visit Thurrock five days after his party lost overall control of the borough’s council? It is an emblematic constituency, Thurrock was hailed by Miliband when the party took control there last year as evidence that Labour was “winning back trust, gaining ground”. Losing that ground hurts the morale of Labour.
So why is Ed going to Thurrock and associating himself with the aroma of defeat? It is counter-intuitive, it is bad politics, it accentuates the negative. It is because Polly Billington is panicking…
UKIP gained 5 seats and took a massive 39% of the vote in Thurrock, up from 18%. It is one place where the Douglas Alexander strategy of targeting the LibDems nationally backfired massively. Once presumed safe Labour seats in Stifford Clays and Belhus wards fell to UKIP. Ed is going to say “There is a deep sense of discontent with the way our country is run. I am determined to show people, including those who voted for UKIP, that we can change our country so they can build a better life for themselves and their family.” Ed is clearly hoping for a narrative of “starting the fight back” against UKIP to shore up Labour activists’ morale.