A political landslide is coming
The partially counted votes in yesterday's local elections confirm that the Conservatives are set for a landslide in the general election on June 8th.
At the time of writing it is clear that the UKIP vote has collapsed – the party has lost all of its seats so far counted – with the majority of votes going straight to the Tories. Labour has lost a substantial number of seats, mainly to the Conservatives.
While the party has staved off a total collapse in Wales, where it promoted the national leadership of Carwyn Jones ahead of that of Jeremy Corbyn, it has nonetheless lost ground. In England it is faring very badly.
With almost a third of the votes counted in the 88 councils contested in England, Scotland and Wales, Labour has already lost over 100 seats. In the same elections in 2013, under Ed Miliband’s leadership, the party won almost 300 seats in England alone. Labour was nonetheless defeated in the general election two years later.
The much vaunted Lib Dem revival has meanwhile failed to materialise. The party has so far suffered a net loss of seats and Dr Vince Cable has acknowledged that “there hasn’t been a spectacular breakthrough”.
The big danger now for the Tories is complacency and they have been busy underplaying their victory. Former leader Iain Duncan Smith delivered the stock line that “This is a good, solid night for the Conservatives but it doesn’t bode anything for the General Election, I don’t think.”
The Corbyn leadership have happily colluded with this delusion with John McDonnell telling Sky News, “As Jeremy gets more airtime, people will see the real Jeremy Corbyn emerge”.
In truth, Labour candidates and activists have reported significant hostility to Jeremy Corbyn on the doorstep with long standing Labour voters either not voting or switching straight to the Conservatives.
However, the Labour leadership have always been braced for bad results and whatever pressure emerges from moderate Labour candidates over the weekend, there are unlikely to be any changes to the party’s campaign. Instead the leadership will attack a hostile media and blame internal dissenters.
But the reality is that Theresa May is popular among many voters. This is a strange election where local Tory literature talks about Theresa May without mentioning the Conservative Party and local Labour leaflets talk about the party without mentioning the leader.
Today, the remaining seats will be counted including Scotland and the metro mayors in Merseyside, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands. The Tories will improve their position in Scotland with Labour likely to lose heavily. Labour is expected to win the first two mayoral contests but the Midlands election is said by both sides to be very close.
Next week sees the election proper resume with the publication of party manifestos. But the lesson of yesterday’s local elections is that the die is already cast.