No party can afford mistakes - even now

Afzal Amin
Image caption The Conservative candidate has denied colluding with the EDL for his own political benefit

"It's just a basket case."

"We never really thought we'd win there."

"No-one's paying attention yet."

Normally, trouble in one seat or another doesn't ruffle parties feathers that much.

They try to shrug off local scandals or embarrassments with those kinds of platitudes.

It is to be expected in the rough and tumble of any campaign (which officially hasn't even started yet) that a candidate here or a candidate there will say the wrong thing, embarrass the party or some skeleton in the closet fall out with a noisy crash.

And normally, parties centrally don't bother about it too much because a candidate here or there translating into a seat here or there, basically doesn't make that much difference.

But as the Conservatives and UKIP both look like showing candidates the door that might not be the case this time.

At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, the only thing we can be sure of is this election looks like it will be nail bitingly close.

If Afzal Amin's seemingly extraordinary behaviour (hear him give his version of events to the BBC here), puts off a few hundred voters, Labour's in-fighting in Bradford puts noses out of joint or UKIP's various candidate shenanigans gives voters pause for thought before putting the cross in the box, it matters.

Sometimes before campaigns really get going politicians are often heard to comfort themselves with the thought that most voters haven't tuned in yet.

So things go wrong, they say? Well, no one will really notice.

That is normally true.

And yet a rumpus like the mess in Dudley serves at least to distract, at precisely the moment when the parties need the determination, focus and discipline to launch their attacks.

No party that wants to win can afford to be distracted.