Ukip's stunning second place finish in the Heywood and Middleton by-election which saw them come within just 617 votes of snatching the safe seat from Labour has added to the pressure on Ed Miliband to prove he is a prime minister in waiting.
Step up former cabinet minister Jack Straw. Trying to be helpful, the veteran Blackburn MP praised Miliband for having held the Labour Party together after its 2010 election defeat. "He has helped to modernise the party. He leads a united shadow cabinet," he said.
However, he added: "I know people say he's got panda eyes and strange lips."
Straw said he could "make the same remarks in different ways about Mr Clegg or Mr Cameron" and that what really mattered was the "nature of the argument" Labour was advancing. But Miliband is unlikely to welcome Straw's analysis of his looks.
Miliband, Straw told Sky News, "has shown he has real leadership qualities in the last four years", qualities the former justice secretary admitted he did not think Miliband had. "I didn't vote for him, I was a sceptic". Straw voted for Ed Miliband's brother David in the 2010 leadership campaign.
Labour has held off a Ukip surge to win the Heywood and Middleton by-election on Thursday, but its majority was cut to just 617. Labour's majority had been almost 6,000 in 2010, but a Ukip surge saw a 17.65% swing to Nigel Farage's party.
Liz McInnes retained the seat for Labour in a contest triggered by the death of former MP Jim Dobbin. On a turnout of just 36%, McInnes won with 11,633 votes, defeating Ukip's John Bickley on 11,016.Suggest a correction