You may have got the impression in recent weeks that Labour had all but lost the next election, and we were simply waiting for voters to put Ed Miliband out of his misery in the General Election next may.
So it’s worth noting that the latest opinion polls have shown that Ed’s party is still in the lead, with 34 per cent of the vote compared to 30 for the Conservatives.
As always, it’s a bad idea to read too much into one poll. But while some surveys have put the parties on an equal footing, and one or two have even shown the Tories with a small lead, the general trend has been the same.
I’m not trying to predict the future here. Anything can happen between now and next May.
But speculation surrounding Ed Miliband’s political demise is, at the very least, premature.
Indeed, what’s remarkable is the way even the smallest hump in the road is portrayed as a disaster for Miliband while David Cameron has had two MPs quit his party, defect to his opponents and then roundly defeat the Tories in by-elections – and it’s seen as a minor setback.
What’s more, the Kippers aren’t quite the all-conquering force they appear, although their rise has certainly been impressive.
The poll I am referring to – the latest from YouGov – gives them 18 per cent of the vote, well behind the two major parties although they are a lot more popular than the Lib Dems, who have only six per cent – placing them tied with the Green Party.
In the Midlands region (bundled with Wales by YouGov), 31 per cent of voters say they would back the Tories if an election was held tomorrow, with 37 per cent for Labour, 19 per cent for UKIP, five per cent for the Lib Dems and four per cent for the Greens.
The limits of UKIP’s support are illustrated in a separate poll by YouGov designed to reveal the true strength of backing for the smaller parties. Asked how likely they would be to vote for each party if they “had had a chance of winning” in the local constituency, 23 per cent of Midland and Wales voters said they would be likely to vote for UKIP – with exactly the same proportion say they would be likely to vote Green.
Again, there’s no denying that UKIP has changed British politics. But despite their two by-election wins, they remain firmly a minority taste.
What UKIP has achieved, is to focus attention on immigration, the topic that is winning them votes.
David Cameron has said (although his policy still isn’t entirely clear) that he will aim to negotiate some sort of new arrangements with the European Union to abolish the principle that anybody from any part of the EU has a right to come to the UK to live and work.
Whether it really will be possible to do that, or whether Mr Cameron will instead succeed merely in making it harder for migrants to claim benefits (which isn’t what brings them here anyway) is another matter.
Labour has also started talking tough on immigration. Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, says Labour backs “fair movement, rather than free movement”.
Again, in practice this seems to involve better enforcement of the minimum wage in the UK and making it harder for migrants to claim benefits. This isn’t quite the same thing as limiting free movement, but Labour appears to hope it will satisfy voters worried about immigration.
Interestingly, Ms Cooper identifies the EU, and the principle of freedom of movement in particular, as right-wing concepts.
She warned: “It is the free market right who want a wide open border – in the interests of cheap labour.”
Attacking the “reactionary right” who oppose immigration for social reasons, she criticised “on the one hand the right wing politics of division, on the other the right wing politics of exploitation. Neither will ever be right for Britain, for working people, or for Labour.”
But not everyone is happy with the apparent consensus that immigration from within the EU must be controlled.
At a meeting of the Number 10 Policy Board, Stourbridge Conservative MP Margot James reportedly warned that the Conservatives “must not dance to Ukip’s tune” and said Britain needed “hard-working Poles and Bulgarians”.
And in an article published on a website recently, she warned: “There is a danger that the anti-immigration and EU minority tail, is wagging the majority British dog. Opinion is divided between reaching out to the minority UKIP view on the one hand, and facing it down on the other. We can however, challenge UKIP’s narrow and negative view, at the same time as listening to people’s concerns.”
She added: “The extreme policies being pushed by UKIP should be resisted wholeheartedly. They would cause immense damage... both the tone, and the content, of the debate about immigration is threatening Britain’s reputation as an open and outward looking nation.
“The day people are put off by the constant negative rhetoric about people coming to this country, and stop coming, is the day we will have far more to worry about.”