Ed Miliband has faced a backlash of criticism from his own party as Ukip won seats in both Labour and Conservative strongholds, with Labour MP Graham Stringer accusing him of leading an “unforgivably unprofessional campaign” in the run up to the local elections.
The Tories and Labour alike were reeling today from a series of defeats at the hands of Ukip in early results from the local council elections. Votes indicated that Essex has voted strongly for Ukip and the party also made inroads in Labour's northern heartlands.
While Labour gained seats, including taking the Tory-led Hammersmith and Fulham and Croydon councils, the surge in votes for Ukip hit the party hard.
Miliband however put the results down to a "deep sense of discontent with the way the country is run" and said votes for Ukip "are an expression of this discontent" and a desire for change.
This morning, David Cameron also admitted the Tories would need to show they have "answers" on issues such as immigration and welfare reform, after conceding the public were "frustrated" with the political establishment's failure to address their concerns.
Ahead of the results, Miliband found himself subject to a scathing attack from a 'leading Labour figure', who was quoted by The Times as saying: “the narrative around Ed Miliband, because it’s the truth, is that he looks weird, sounds weird, is weird.”
This comes just three days after a poll by ComRes and ITV News that showed Nigel Farage is the party leader most likely to be considered ‘weird’ by the British public.
In pictures: Ed Miliband trying to look normal
In pictures: Ed Miliband trying to look normal
1/17 The beggar
Ed Miliband casually gives money to a homeless woman in Manchester, surrounded by press photographers.
2/17 The Bacon Sandwich
Ed Miliband buys a bacon sandwich from cafe owner Antonios Foufas at New Covent Garden Market in London as he kicks off a day of campaigning on the eve of the local and European elections
3/17 The Bacon Sandwich
Ed Miliband chats with a cafe owner Antonios Foufas at New Covent Garden Market in London
4/17 The Bacon Sandwich
Ed Miliband embarked on a whirlwind campaign tour of England - but struggled at the first hurdle (a bacon sandwich). Aides intervened after just a few less-than-elegant bites
5/17 Flower Shopping
Ed Miliband talks with a couple of traders at New Covent Garden Market in London
6/17 Flower Shopping
Ed Miliband purchases some red roses for his wife at New Covent Garden Market in London
7/17 Talking Business
Ed Miliband talks with a trader at New Covent Garden Market in London
8/17 Good Morning Britain
Miliband on ITV's Good Morning Britain show on 20 May 2014, a day of gaffes in which he was also caught out by BBC Wiltshire for not knowing who the local Labour leader was
9/17 '£70 Weekly Shop'
Ed was accused of being 'out of touch with reality' after he seemed not to know what he - or the average British family - spends on a weekly food shop
10/17 Drop in Polls
Ed Miliband paid a visit to Leighton Hospital in Crewe to speak with the staff about the NHS, but faced difficult questions about polls showing his personal ratings falling well behind those David Cameron and George Osborne
11/17 On the Sofa with Farage
Ed Miliband appeared on the Andrew Marr Show to debate with Nigel Farage - but has all but conceded defeat in the Newark by-election, allowing Ukip a free run at the Tories
12/17 Wollies in Wellies
Miliband was among a number of politicians to come under fire for 'touring' the floods in the South and South West earlier this year
13/17 Wollies in Wellies
The Labour leader admitted it was 'a difficult decision for politicians whether to visit areas like this'
14/17 Missed Opportunity
Miliband's performance at the Labour conference last year failed to make much of an impression on voters, polls suggested
15/17 Sharing the Moment
Miliband, Nick Clegg, David Cameron and Angus Robinson enjoy their moment with Andy Murray, after the tennis player's Wimbledon win
16/17 Casual Husband
Miliband and his wife Justine are pictured in their hotel room in Brighton as he prepares to give his keynote speech to the annual Labour Party Conference
17/17 The Milibands
Just your average family of four?
Graham Stringer, the Labour MP for Blackley and Broughton, criticised the Labour leader on BBC Radio 4 for not knowing his cost of living, saying: “The centrepiece has been the cost of living but Ed didn’t know his own cost of living. He didn’t know how much he was spending on his shopping.”
Miliband “lacks immediate appeal to the electorate” the Eurosceptic MP claimed, and condemned problems with "both the presentation of our policies and the organisation of the campaign".
Another senior MP told the newspaper members of the shadow cabinet were “dismayed” by his failure to brand Farage a racist over his controversial comments on immigration, accusing the Labour leader of "squeamishness" in talking about the subject. The source was quoted as saying: “Challenging Ukip got lost in the froth and I'm baffled at the failure to condemn what Farage was saying.”
Former minister David Lammy said the party should have done better in places such as Swindon, conceding that voters were "swallowing" Ukip's message on immigration and Europe.
Mr Lammy told Sky News: “There's no doubt about it, Ukip are biting into parts of Labour's working-class vote.”
But Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander insisted Labour could win the general election based on the results coming in overnight from key battleground seats.
He told BBC Breakfast: "We are very far from complacent. We recognise the alienation and the anger that has found expression in a lot of people voting for Ukip last night but we still believe that we are well placed if we do the right things and we take the right steps in the coming 12 months to win that general election."