Labour will be ‘somewhat disappointed’ by their local election results, elections expert John Curtice said today – with Keir Starmer’s party sweeping up London but making only modest gains elsewhere.
He said it was not a performance ‘that indicated a party that is on course for winning a general election with a majority’ and did not even suggest Labour would necessarily be the largest party in the next Parliament.
Labour has seized three symbolic London councils from the Conservatives – Westminster, Barnet and Wandsworth.
While Southampton has switched to Labour, the party is struggling to make ground elsewhere, and lost Hull to the Lib Dems after more than a decade in power.
Labour leader Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria arrive to vote at the TRA Hall, London
English council results so far
Holds: Broxbourne, Thurrock, Nuneaton & Bedworth, Epping Forest, Basildon, Rochford, Brentwood, Harlow, Rushmoor, Redditch, Fareham, Amber Valley, North East Lincolnshire, Tamworth, Dudley, Bexley, Hillingdon
Losses: Worcester (to no overall control), Wandsworth (to Labour), Westminster (to Labour), Southampton (to Labour), West Oxfordshire (to NOC), Barnet (to Labour)
Gains: Cumberland (from NOC), Wandsworth (from Tories), Southampton (from Tories), Barnet (from Tories)
Holds: Sunderland, Halton, South Tyneside, Chorley, Tameside, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Sefton, Stevenage, Lincoln, Sandwell, Exeter, Ipswich, Wigan, Coventry, Salford, North Tyneside, Preston, Oldham, Waltham Forest, Wolverhampton, Barnsley, Ealing, Barking & Dagenham, Redbridge
Loss: Kingston-upon-Hull (to Lib Dems)
Gain: Kingston-upon-Hull (from Labour)
What other results are expected and when?
Around 9am: Counting begins for a further 71 councils in England and all councils in Scotland and Wales.
Professor Curtice said: ‘Outside of London, as compared to 2018 when these seats were last contested, it looks like their seats are down slightly.
‘And for a party that is trying to regain ground in the so-called Red Wall seats in the Midlands and north of England, this wasn’t quite the progress they wanted.
‘There is still a very substantial legacy of the impact of Brexit on both the character of the Conservative and Labour supporters.
‘The Conservatives are still much stronger in Leave areas, and therefore Labour is still struggling to make more progress there.
Wandsworth – seen as the Tory’s flagship council – has been Tory since 1978, and Westminster since 1964.
Labour’s success in Barnet, which has a large Jewish population, will be seen as a sign the party has turned the corner on the anti-Semitism rows which dogged Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
Sir Keir described Labour’s gains as ‘absolutely brilliant’ and a ‘big turning point’ for the party.
Speaking to Labour campaigners in Barnet, he says: ‘We’ve changed Labour and now we’re seeing the results of that.’
However, the leader of the Labour group of Barnet council, said this was less of a reflection on enthusiasm for his party and more a reflection of disillusionment with the Tories. Barry Rawlings told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I’ll be honest, it’s not us being wonderful.
‘I think a lot of Conservatives haven’t voted this time, I think they feel alienated from No 10 and that they are, I don’t know, they’ve been disappointed with Boris Johnson and so not voting and I think that’s made a difference as well.’
The Conservatives are downplaying Labour’s wins, saying that the party has ‘gone backwards’ outside of London.
But privately they are conceding that it has been a ‘difficult night’ for the Conservatives in the capital.
A Tory source told Politico: ‘Outside London, this is now looking like a bad night for Labour across the rest of the country.
‘They have gone backwards in places like Sunderland, Tyneside, Hartlepool, Nuneaton, Sandwell and Amber Valley, showing they are seriously underperforming in former Labour heartlands which they need to regain.’
However, Barnet Conservative leader Daniel Thomas said Labour’s victory in the London borough ‘does not bode well’ for the Tories ahead of the next general election.
‘I think this is a warning shot from Conservative supporters and I think our loss today is not only due to the fact that I have just mentioned but also a fair number of Conservative voters who just didn’t go out to vote, stayed at home,’ he said.
‘Clearly if Labour are to get a majority in Parliament they need to win Barnet. They won the council, if they win our parliamentary constituencies as well.’
With voters shunning both Labour and the Tories, the Lib Dems and Greens are emerging as the biggest winners from the local elections.
The Lib Dems have added more than 50 councillors to their tally and seized control of Kingston-Upon-Hull authority from Labour.
They made inroads against the Conservatives in West Oxfordshire and Stockport.
For their part, the Greens have racked up an extra 20-plus seats.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan joins Labour celebrations in Wandsworth where the party took the council off the Conservatives for the first time in more than 40 years
Professor Curtice said the Lib Dems were ‘the surprise of tonight’. ‘In terms of share of the vote, the progress is relatively modest, but they might just be hoping they are finally demonstrating some recovery from the 2015 general election,’ he told the BBC.
Lib Dem leader Ed Davey said: ‘There is now a real picture emerging across the country, particularly in areas held by the Conservatives, that the Lib Dems are the real challengers.’
Today, Labour blamed their loss of control of Hull after more than a decade in power on a collapse of the Tory vote which moved to the Lib Dems.
Labour’s outgoing council leader Daren Hale said his party lost its slender majority in the city due to a total collapse of the last vestiges of Conservative support in key wards of the city.
The Lib Dems saw a net gain of three seats in Hull, leaving them with 29 seats on the 57-seat council, compared with 27 for Labour and one independent. The Conservatives lost their last remaining seat on the council to Labour.
Labour’s Graeme Miller, the leader of Sunderland City Council, celebrates as his party retained control
Asked whether the result was a reflection of Labour’s national profile, Mr Hale told BBC Radio Humberside: ‘In the seats we held, our majority went up.
‘It was the collapse of the Tory vote which, in a sense the Labour Party isn’t responsible for, that led to those seats changing hands. So, I think it would be too premature to make those judgments.’
Local issues around disruptive road building projects and policies over buses and cycles have been cited as key areas of concern for voters in Hull.
Mr Hale said local Lib Dem councillors are at odds with the national party over bus and cycle lane policies.
He said: ‘There’s no hiding place now. I look forward to all the roadworks being completed in the middle of the night by magic pixies with no disruption to the public but we will see, won’t we?’
And he added: ‘We will dust ourselves down and we will come back.’
The Tories also lost Westminster council in London, which the party had held since 1964
Source: Daily Mail