Today’s local election results were neither the damning indictment of a decade of Conservative rule many predicted, nor the ringing endorsement of Keir Starmer’s Labour project two years before the next general election.
What they did demonstrate was further evidence of the dividing lines that currently split British politics. Unhappiness with the Government played out with the Conservatives suffering huge losses in London, yet the Red Wall of 2019 emerged relatively unscathed.
Generally low turnout across the country, coupled with the public’s political fatigue following months of scandal hit by both main political parties, show that if anything, these local election results are nothing more than the usual mid-term blues.
Undoubtedly the Conservatives have been hit by a combination of the cost-of-living crisis starting to bite people’s back pockets and the fallout from the Prime Minister being fined for breaking his own Covid rules.
For Labour, despite their successes in the capital, it’s hard to argue that today’s results represent the seismic shift required to oust Boris Johnson from Downing Street.
Whilst Starmer and his team can point to victories outside the M25, they haven’t made the inroads required to be viewed as a government-in-waiting.
So, whilst the Prime Minister will face the inevitable backlash from Conservative MPs who have lost councillors overnight, just as many questions will be posed around Starmer’s own lack of cut-through across the country.
Ultimately, the other major news of today is likely to be of more importance to Boris Johnson than the losses of London. The Government’s long-term fate will be determined by the country’s economic fortunes, following the Bank of England’s warning around raised inflation rates.
This will likely increase further pressure on Chancellor Rishi Sunak, amidst fresh calls for a wave of tax cuts he just doesn’t want to do yet.
The problem the Government now face is that both economically and politically, they are faced with lots of questions and not many answers.
The House View – by Steve Hawkes, Head of Strategic Media
WHERE WAS THE outrage about Boris Johnson and 'Partygate'? Yes the Tories suffered some embarrassing losses - not least in the capital - but that was about it. Turnout was ridiculously low for the first big set of elections since Covid and what did we get? Largely a shrug of the shoulders.
Effectively Boris Johnson and the Tory voters have had a huge row and are giving each other the silent treatment. The Tory voter yesterday stayed at home. Critically what they didn't do was switch sides to Labour. Keir Starmer understandably is revelling in victories in Wandsworth, Westminster and Barnet but the party lost seats in Oldham, and it's down one in Wakefield - where a crucial by-election is about to take place. For Labour it's still grim up north, not least because Durham Police are now investigating Keir Starmer over the 'Beergate' allegations that he broke Covid rules with a curry night.
Both the Tories and Labour need to up their game over the coming months as the cost-of-living crisis mounts. Will Rishi Sunak go back to spending big? You'd have a flutter on it. As for Labour, bank the victories but there are big questions as to what the Labour 'brand' stands for now in constituencies they have to win if they want any hope of regaining the keys to No.10.