Even for someone like me who was expecting the locals to go very, very well for the Tories and very, very, very badly for Labour, the picture that is emerging exceeds even my expectations. As of this second, the Conservatives have gained 163 seats overall, Labour have lost 127 (!), the Lib Dems have lost 29 – and UKIP have lost all 41 seats they have had in play thus far. So what does this tell us?
1.The Tory landslide is well and truly on
In recent days I have gone back and forth on whether the Conservative victory on June 8th will be relatively modest (majority of 50-100) – or monumental. Although one shouldn’t read too much from local elections, I think we can safely say that the general election result is starting to look more likely to be in the monumental range for the Conservative Party. The Tories have been in government for seven years now – to be gaining a hundred seats in a local election says a lot about their appeal to a majority of voters, not to mention of the awfulness of their opposition. Speaking of which….
2. Things look worse for Labour than many pundits have thought thus far
I have felt isolated in some of my thoughts on the local elections prior to yesterday; most serious electoral pundits seem to be thinking the Labour seat losses to be sort of around the 100 mark, perhaps even not that bad. The fact that they’ve lost 127 already and we haven’t even got to the bloodbath that will be Scotland for them, I think it will be more like the 300-odd losses I figured it probably would be.
And the Labour leadership will learn nothing from this whatsoever. We’ve already had Emily Thornberry on TV asking “where is this Tory surge in Wales we’ve heard all about?” Answer: it’s happening in front of you, Emily. They are gaining seats in Wales and you are losing them. The fact that you managed to hold Swansea says things are merely horrible for you as opposed to apocalyptic.
3. The Lib Dem surge really hasn’t happened
A month ago I said a 100 seats gained would represent a good day for the Lib Dems; that anything less than 30 gains would be bad; that an overall loss of seats would be “catastrophic”. While the results might improve from here, so far we are firmly in catastrophe territory.
While my mind shifts between big Tory win v massive Tory win scenarios, I also ponder whether I was right about predicting the Lib Dems to end up with between 15 and 20 seats after June 8th – or if I had been, as usual, too generous towards the Liberal Democrats. I am very much starting to side with the latter, and I may have to revise my prediction downwards. I am even starting to think holding the 9 they currently have would represent a good GE result for the Lib Dems.
4. UKIP are dead
The one ray of sunshine for progressives today: UKIP do look to be no more. Losing every seat in a local election is the end, really.