Labour’s loves lost to UKIP?

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Is the Labour Party staggering towards its doom?

That may be a melodramatic question, but the fact remains that there is a growing number of level-headed Labour MPs who fear for the party’s future under its present leadership.

Perhaps the most telling comment came from veteran Labour backbencher David Winnick. He said, in reference to the Sleaford and North Hykeham by-election: “It was an appalling result for Labour. If we were to continue in this way then the indications are 2020 will be an electoral disaster and the possibility of a Labour Government very remote indeed.”

Strong stuff. But nonetheless, the true feelings of many worried Labour MPs. Labour’s slide to fourth at Sleaford, below even Ukip and the Liberal Democrats, was a grim result. What they should do is reduce the influence of the trade unions in the leadership election process, and give MPs a far bigger say.

That way, they would get a leader that backbenchers would generally support and not one who is despised by large swathes of them.

Meanwhile, there were jitters at Conservative HQ that Sleaford might replicate the disaster for them at Richmond Park. There was a sigh of relief when they won comfortably. But all the parties should be worried about the upsurge of Ukip at Sleaford. They can no longer be ignored.

- There was never going to be the prospect the maverick Boris Johnson (pictured) would suddenly mutate into your typical tight-lipped Foreign Secretary who would never say anything disobliging about a dodgy ally with whom the UK was desperate to maintain good relations.

Now, May has had to inflict a sharp rap on Boris’ knuckles for his critical comments about the Saudi Arabian regime, which everyone knows to be true, but which you do not expect a Foreign Secretary to utter.

Boris did not apologise – everyone would have known how meaningless that would have been. Although his subsequent remarks in Bahrain were far more conciliatory.

May can hardly complain. She appointed him, knowing what sort of man he was. Perhaps the wisest comment has come from an ex-Tory Foreign Secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind: “A Foreign Secretary is either boring, or dangerous. And Boris is certainly not boring.”