Most attention today will focus on how badly the LibDems fare in West London’s Feltham & Heston by-election; the party could come fourth behind the Tories and UKIP in the safe Labour seat.
But Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, badly in need of some positive news after severe opinion poll setbacks, will be praying for a convincing win to bolster his party’s fragile morale.
Since taking office Miliband has always trailed Tory PM David Cameron in personal popularity. This didn’t matter too much while Labour had a comfortable lead over the Tories in voting intentions but the latest polling suggests the party has drawn level with Labour – or even ahead.
This recent spurt is linked to the country’s support for Cameron exercising Britain’s veto at the Brussels summit last week. This will evaporate, even so at this stage in the Government’s austerity programme Labour should be doing better.
Miliband looks fatally isolated. He was not the majority choice of Labour MPs and the Blairites haven’t forgiven him stitching up brother David for the leadership.
I’m not alone in thinking Yvette Cooper would do a better job than either Miliband (a ‘dream ticket' would see David M. her deputy) but she is unlikely to frustrate the political ambitions of her husband, shadow chancellor Ed Balls.
In any case despite the talk of coups, the party has a habit of following unelectable leaders – such as Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock, and Gordon Brown - into electoral disaster. Ed Miliband is of their ilk.
The Coalition needs to be rigorously challenged and in the interest of the democratic process Labour should dump its leader but it won't.
Becoming prime minister isn't a beauty contest otherwise Clem Atlee and Ted Heath would never have made it to No.10. It doesn't matter to the public that Miliband is a gift to cartoonist. They sense he hasn't got what it takes to lead this country.
A recent poll of LabourList readers found a sharp drop in support for Ed Miliband in reaction to his handling of the public sector pensions strike on November 30. So he can please neither Left nor Right.
There is only a little time for Miliband to get back on track. A bad result in May’s London mayoral election – the Tory’s Boris Johnson trouncing Labour choice Ken Livingstone – will further weaken support.