LABOUR had had a bad week. It had performed a mighty U-turn on the £28bn green industrial policy that was to be the centrepiece of its manifesto, and then it became embroiled in a dirty, anti-Semitism row which means it will not now have an official candidate in next week’s Rochdale by-election – a poll it was expected to win.

How humiliating!

But it has been an even worse week for the Conservatives. Bad economic news was followed by two massive by-election election defeats yesterday morning.

While Labour’s troubles this week have been about politics, the Conservatives’ difficulties over the shrinking economy have hit voters where it hurts most – in the pocket – and so in Kingswood and Wellingborough, they turned against them in historic numbers.

Reform UK, the anti-EU, anti-immigration, anti-net zero party on the right, did well, picking up 13 per cent of the vote – the sort of share that Ukip won a decade ago, spooking David Cameron into holding the Brexit referendum. Imagine how much bigger that share would be if Nigel Farage assumed leadership of the new party.

Will Rishi Sunak be tempted to offer the right wing some raw meat, perhaps smashing international law to look tough on unlawful immigrants or recklessly slashing taxes at a time when national debt is growing?

That is the easy path, and it is not guaranteed to be a success. For every vote he might win back from Reform, he will lose more people on the centre ground to Labour.

It is a desperate death spiral the Tories now find themselves in. It was set in motion by the untruthful chaos of the Johnson years and it was given an additional spin by the half-baked trauma of the Truss weeks.

Perhaps the Tories’ only hope is that Labour shoots itself in the foot with more self-inflicted troubles as it has this week, but even they show no sign of persuading the British people to give Rishi Sunak’s party any benefit of the doubt.