Stakes raised for the Conservatives; The Journal.
THE conference season so far seems to be like one of those football matches where no one seems to want to score - except perhaps in their own net.
Last week's Labour conference in Manchester was notable for Ed Miliband's forgettable (in every sense) speech.
If the Tories were laughing at that - and they were - they aren't laughing now as their conference got off to a horrendous start with a defection and a sex scandal.
The resignation of Brooks Newmark will have few if any long-term implications for the Conservatives. The defection of Mark Reckless, on the other hand, certainly will.
The loss of a second MP to Ukip will tempt the Conservative high command to toughen its stance on the EU and immigration.
But it must beware. Attempts to outflank Ukip will only succeed in turning off the voters the Conservatives really need at the next general election - those in the political centre.
The defection of Mr Reckless has angered Conservatives far more than that of Douglas Carswell. They could turn that anger into a moraleboosting victory in the by-election that must soon be held in Mr Reckless's Kent constituency. That would be the best form of revenge.
Yesterday, Leader of the House of Commons William Hague was putting a brave face on the Tories' troubles.
His claim that the Tories could win more seats in the urban North East is surely nonsense. The best his party can hope for is to hold on to Hexham and Stockton South and finally snatch Berwick from the Lib Dems.
But they should know that turning up the right-wing rhetoric this week would only risk both those prizes.