Miliband in listening mode as Labour regroups for next year's fight

Labour won 25% of the vote, beating the Conservatives, but the threat of Ukip can no longer be denied. Credit: PA

By Chris Ship: ITV News Deputy Political Editor

Ed Miliband is in listening mode.

It's a wise mode to be in considering where he is.

He is speaking in Thurrock, Essex. Thurrock is number two on Labour's target list for the General Election. And yet last week, Labour lost control of the council here and then polled fewer than half as many votes as UKIP in the European elections.

It shows the tough fight Mr Miliband has ahead of him if he wants to win the next election in less than a year's time. No party has gone on to win a general election after failing to win the preceding European one.

True, Labour finished in second place behind UKIP last week. And some of UKIP's support will go back to the other parties next year. But it was not even a convincing second place finish.

Read: Miliband making the case for Europe in Thurrock

Labour got 25% vote share. The Conservatives managed 24%.

Labour has 20 MEPs now. The Conservative have 19. It explains why there are jitters in Mr Miliband's party about his style, his strategy and his direction.

Labour offered policies on the cost of living, on energy, on housing, on banks but voters didn't support Ed Miliband in the numbers he needs to show he is on his way to Downing Street.

What Ed Miliband is trying to do here - is to convince voters that he is listening. Listening to their concerns about immigration - which most agree was the reason why so many supported Ukip last week.

He says "it's not right wing to talk about immigration" but he is also being warned not to try to copy Ukip's policies in this area.

He doesn't think pulling out of the EU is the answer. Nor does he think there should be an in/out referendum. I spent much of yesterday talking to voters who supported UKIP last week.

I suspect they would disagree with Ed Miliband's analysis on those issues.

What Labour, and the Conservatives, must now confront is this: how can they get back votes in places like Thurrock without trying to out-Ukip Ukip?

The answer to that it seems, is not easy.

More: Polls suggest Nick Clegg could lose Sheffield seat in 2015