For the Conservatives tonight’s local election results reflect their current style of government, forced upon them by last June’s election: making just enough incremental steps forward to just about survive. Whilst for Labour, they will be disappointed, but not disappointed enough for the style of leadership to change.
Labour’s disappointment is only exasperated by the wild predictions of turning London red, that they let run wild. As a result, this has made the Tories retaining seats in London be interpreted as a victory.
The overall picture from the results this morning is that a defining line drawn up in the last general election, is now beginning to be entrenched. The line now separating the two parties is London. In London Labour increased their vote share; whist, the Conservatives increased their vote share outside of the capital. However, this did not lead to Labour gaining any council seats in London:
In Barnet, the Conservatives will hold the council. This seems to be a direct result of the growing anti-Semitism row in the Labour Party, reflected in Hale where the Tories won the ward, which has a 19 per cent Jewish population, rather than the average 15 per cent in Barnet. In addition, in the significantly Jewish ward of Garden Suburb, Labour lost heavily.
Kensington and Chelsea was held by the Conservatives despite efforts by Labour to oust the leadership over their handling of the Grenfell Tower Tragedy
Sadiq Khan was seen leaving Wandsworth before the result was declared. This is an anecdote for Labour’s problems throughout this election. Results in London have not lived up to the expectations they created and so the party have produced a defeat really from a status quo result.
In Trafford though, Labour were victorious in taking control from the Conservatives, leaving the council in no overall control. This will worry such Tories as Sir Graham Brady who saw his majority cut in the last election, and will supply evidence to those that believe the Tory Brexit strategy is alienating Remain voters in affluent areas, such as Trafford.
The verdict of whether the Tory Brexit strategy is now winning over more Leave voters than in the last election, is still unsure. In Middle England the Tories did well in Brexit areas such as Derby, taking seats from UKIP, whereas in Plymouth Labour took control of the council, by winning back some votes from UKIP.
Only more detailed results will reveal exactly where UKIP voters have gone, but as UKIP collapse away from the political scene, the Lib Dems with a surprising fightback in Leave voting Hull and a victory in Richmond, are beginning to lay the foundations for a revival — local councils are the way the Lib Dems can begin winning back support. The Greens have picked up considerable support too.
The idea of Peak Corbyn having been reached last June is something that will be argued a little bit more after today’s results, but it is worth remembering that Corbyn and Labour did not perform well in the 2016 local elections or those in 2017 just before the election. Corbyn is a natural campaigner and suited to a national election campaign, where his passion was only amplified against a lacklustre May. But Labour didn’t win in 2017 and today they look no closer to power.
Local elections have local implications, which do affect votes: whether in favour of greater devolution or border changes, bins, council tax and local public services. Despite this, a conclusion can be taken from these results.
This hasn’t been an election that has provided the shock headlines of previous votes, but it has taught us a number of things. Labour have lost the game of expectation management, having failed to win historically Tory strongholds like Wandsworth.
More significantly, though, Labour are no closer to taking power. They have not made sufficient gains in London to counter losses in Middle England. Whilst for the Tories, they will be worried about losing in Remain strongholds; Trafford to Labour, and Richmond to the Lib Dems, respectively.
This election result has entrenched the divide between Labour’s fortunes in London, compared to the rest of the UK. It has also reinforced the fact that Britain is being ruled by a hung parliament. Specifically, one where the ruling Tories are doing just enough to be able to keep governing, but are not particularly inspiring the country, and where Labour have been unable to persuade the country to move them a step closer to power.