The local elections were nowhere near as bad as many (myself included) had predicted for Labour. The 150+ losses never materialised. Labour lost seats in England, but far below anyone’s expectations. Well, except for Jeremy Corbyn who had told the world that the party would lose no seats at all, but he’s usually a special exception in regards to these sorts of issues.
Wales wasn’t bad at all either for Labour. Some Friday morning projections had Labour losing as many as eight seats, with UKIP winning as many as fifteen. In the end, Labour lost a mere one seat while UKIP gained a mere seven (although with the reminder that they had zero previously), all of them gained from the Tories or Lib Dems (who had a bad time of it in Wales, reduced to a lone seat in the Assembly).
Sadiq won the London mayoralty, as expected. So what’s with my downer headline then? Looked at from any sort of neutral perspective, the results of these elections were terrible for Labour. It became the first party in 34 years to lose local seats while in opposition. The comparison with 1982 is interesting as well, since it was Labour as well that time round, coming as it did before the worst general election defeat Labour have suffered since becoming the main centre-left party in Britain. So losing seats – even it was far less than most predicted – is still very bad and does not bode well for the Labour at the next general election.
This is all before we come to the really epically poor result: Scotland. I have been accused by Corbynistas of doing down Labour’s chances in the lead up to this set of elections. I will remind them that I predicted that Labour would cling on to second place in the Scottish parliament; even I thought it couldn’t get that bad. Let’s be clear: Labour coming third behind the Tories in Scotland is, from a Labour viewpoint, titanically awful. It is a result that it hard to put into anything other than apocalyptic terms.
Despite all this, what’s really bad about the election results from a Labour perspective is that in some ways they weren’t bad enough. Sadiq won in London; the English locals weren’t nearly as awful as predicted. So Corbyn’s team can say it’s been a quasi-victory. In fact, we’ve already had Diane Abbott saying the election results demonstrate “steady progress” while making the outrageous claim that the results demonstrate Labour are on course for victory in 2020. At best they show that Labour are standing still, which when you take into account the last general election result, the new boundaries the 2020 election will be fought on and then look at Labour’s string of local election victories in the last parliament (the last time most of these seats were contested, Labour won over 800 seats), sort of solidifies the idea that if these elections are anything to go by, Labour are facing the drubbing of the century at the next general election. But pointing this out apparently makes you a Blairite, a Tory, or whatever is fashionable amongst the far left these days.