True, UKIP has won some impressive second places in northern Labour seats in by-elections, most notably in winning 39% in Heywood and Middleton on Thursday. But it did this mainly by taking votes off the Tories and Lib Dems.
Together, the two coalition parties won 50% there in 2010. On Thursday their combined share was just 17%. Labour’s share actually went up slightly.
Admittedly, without Ukip’s intervention, Labour’s support would have risen more. But the Heywood and Middleton result does not indicate any of Labour’s northern strongholds falling to Ukip next May. The only seat that looks vulnerable is Rotherham, where Ukip won more than 40% of the vote in this year’s European Parliament elections. Otherwise, the best Ukip can hope for in the North is to establish itself as the main challenger to Labour next May, and to start winning seats there in 2020.
One other Labour seat where Ukip ‘won’ in the Euro-elections was Grimsby, where Austin Mitchell is standing down. Every other seat among the top dozen Ukip prospects is currently held by the Conservatives, although Thurrock is one where Labour starts only 92 votes behind the Tories.