It is far too early to judge the significance of the local election results but, as of 7am on Friday morning, here are my early thoughts.
Labour have had a good night, whatever way you spin it a projected gain of 700 seats is not to be sneezed at. More importantly Ed M can point to gains in places like Harlow as evidence that Labour are able to at least compete in the South again. It is not a watershed moment and they will be disappointed if the share of the vote stays under the magic 40% mark. This gives Ed some breathing space to carry on with his ‘slowly but surely’ strategy and means they have earned the right to be heard again – a vital first step for any longer-term recovery. The disappointing result in the London Mayoral race announced later today will not be blamed on Ed or his team (in fact it arguably makes him look more of an electoral asset) and is unlikely to take the shine of his first real electoral success.
Although it was a bad night for Lib-Dems, I don’t think they will be too disappointed. The ongoing slide in the opinion polls has not borne fruit, with their vote actually holding up well compared to last year. Their biggest problem is, due to the peculiarities of our voting system, even small fluctuations in the share of the national vote have the potential to destroy them come General Election time. They have pinned their hopes on a significant economic upturn by 2015 and all the goodwill that comes with it, now all they can do is wait.
For the Tories this is a shocker, the leadership may have ‘priced in’ this scale of loss, but that is no consolation for the hundreds of ousted Tory councillors who feel the government has no guiding vision, no plan for growth and has become detached from its Tory roots. Better news to come for them later when Boris is returned as London Mayor – this is a poisoned chalice for the leadership though. How is it Boris can be so popular when Cameron, to put it mildly, isn’t? How come Boris looks like a heavyweight when Cameron, to put it mildly, isn’t? How come Boris has a mission when Cameron, to put it mildly doesn’t? Expect an angry and rejuvenated right-wing of the Tory party to put real pressure on the Cameroon both pre and post the upcoming Queen’s Speech.
All of this however will be overshadowed the the terrible turnout. Less than a third of people managed to get to their polling stations and put an X in a box. I haven’t really got my head round what this means yet – expect that it is bad for democracy and shows political parties continue to be detached from the people they purportedly represent. This probably deserves a post of its own, so I’ll have a think and get back to you.
Will try and write later once the dust has settled and the Mayoral results have been announced.