London Local Elections - the 6:30am update

Quote of the Day:

“In politics, never retreat, never retract, never admit a mistake.”
Napoleon Bonaparte

Never have local elections results been so eagerly anticipated or talked about as much. Would this signal the end of Theresa May? Would we see Jeremy Corbyn elevated to the heady heights of Leader-in-Waiting in a GQ Magazine style pose again? With over half of elections taking place in the London, the focus has been on the capital, but the results across the rest of the country are potentially more important for all parties as either their beacon of hope or impending doom and they will all be spinning the story furiously this morning.

If you don’t want to read any further then here is what you need to know: Labour have dramatically failed to live up to their own, let alone anyone else’s expectations including failing to win Barnet it would appear and are already trying to make light of it across the news. The Tories will live to fight another day and perhaps several more given the results so far including retaining Wandsworth, Westminster and K&C. The Lib Dems may be re-emerging as an actual political entity with a convincing win in Richmond.

If you wish to find out more, please do read on…

At the time of writing with over half of Councils declared the results are dramatic in a drab sort of way, by which I mean, the lack of excitement of councils changing hands is really the story. What is drab for one person is thrilling for another and the Tories are likely to be feeling relieved and reinvigorated this morning. So well did they talk down their expectations pre-election that not having a drubbing is basically going to be seen as a win.

There has been no clean sweep for Labour in London – and this despite the fact that activists were everywhere and the sun was shining for part of the day, meaning the ‘wet weather = labour vote collapse’ excuse can’t even be used. Failing to win Barnet – if indeed this is the case – is a major blow, undoubtedly the anti-semitism row has had a part to play but losing seats to the Tories is a disaster for Labour in London.

Whilst, numerically, Labour have made gains both in terms of numbers of councillors and councils, this is not a good night for the party in terms of future prospects. The Tories have also made gains so there is little to shout about. John McDonnell has already been talking about how the party was only ever looking for steady progress – which is complete and utter b****cks, you don’t invest the time and resources they spent in historically unwinnable places like Westminster, Wandsworth and K&C if you aren’t pretty confident that you have the rest of it sewn up so you can focus on some PR-exercise scalp-taking.

And that, is the rub. Perception is everything, anything less than spectacular over-turning of Tory strongholds was always going to be seen as a loss; this was the prime opportunity for the party to make the gains it needs to feel confident about moving forward to the next General Election. If the party can only make small inroads in places like Westminster and Wandsworth and, across the country, fail to really dent the Tory vote, they will struggle at the national level. If the party can’t take the lead when up against a Tory Party which makes the last days of John Major seem like the pinnacle of unity, and when the number of activists they have far outstrips those of the Tories, then there are some serious questions which need to be asked. They have come away pretty much empty handed. Of course, whether or not questions will be asked and acted upon internally is an entirely different matter.

However, given the state of the Labour Party currently, there will undoubtedly be a number of MPs and councillors who are quietly pretty pleased at Labour’s failure to launch in the locals. Had it been a night of red flags flying everywhere, the JC effect would have been consolidated and irrefutable. The inability to make the predicted gains may well start to show the cracks where the light gets in, just enough for daggers to be wedged through by moderates in the party. It’s all very well making gains in safe wards, but if you can’t get wavering voters to vote for you, let alone Tory voters, then the arithmetic just doesn’t stack up for the future. Not that anyone who the Labour Party puts up to speak about the results today will say that, obviously.

The Tories are not yet crowing but they will be. Whilst not being completely annihilated isn’t really a win, it probably feels like it to Mrs Maybe this morning. That Labour didn’t win Wandsworth, a borough they spent an awful lot of energy focusing on and where Sadiq Khan made his presence very much felt during the campaign (and at the count) will be a massive relief for the Tories. At the time of writing, there are still seats to declare but the Conservatives have already won, suggesting a reasonable, if reduced, majority. Not that I’m smug here, but I always predicted that Labour wouldn’t actually win Wandsworth despite all of the media hype…

The UKIP vote has been a key part of the success of the Tories with this largely collapsing and being transferred to the Conservatives meaning gains for them in places such as Peterborough and Basildon. UKIP have managed to hang on to a few seats so far but it is a lonely looking place for them. With any luck, this may finally mean that we see less of Nigel Farage on TV, but probably not as the networks appear addicted to his naturally spitting image face and, UKIP did manage to usurp the Leader of Derby Council in a slightly odd sort of coup, so they have one exciting thing to talk about, which is all that the Farage needs. Surely we are now awaiting a congratulatory tweet from Donald Trump just to clarify how bizarre politics really is these days.

Little talked about over the past few weeks, but the winners of the whole thing so far seem to be the Lib Dems. Vince Cable – despite looking like an undertaker – has become something more akin to a midwife, delivering the Lib Dems to a new birth with pretty impressive gains of seats not to mention taking Richmond Upon Thames from the Tories with a convincing majority of 24.

So, what are the big results so far:

The Happy News for the Tories:

• Not only did they comfortably retain, but they actually gained seats in Hillingdon. A Council where internal polling suggested they would hold on by just two seats.
• The Tories gained, yes actually gained, Peterborough and Basildon, benefiting from the collapse of the UKIP vote.
• They retained the Holy Trinity of Wandsworth, Westminster and K&C, suffering some losses but all with workable majorities.

Labour’s Ups and Downs:

• Labour are the largest party in Trafford – although they didn’t manage to take the Council, just push it into NOC. Given that JC launched his campaign from Trafford, I would suggest this is marked as a C+, could do better.
• Lost control of Nuneaton, Bedworth and Derby – pretty poor showing and not a good sign for a future General Election.
• Labour didn’t lose Dudley, but they didn’t win it either so it remains in NOC.
• Labour held onto, and made gains in, Hammersmith & Fulham, reducing the Tories to just 11 seats.
• Whilst declaring themselves delighted at taking all 3 seats in Maida Vale Ward in Westminster, they didn’t win West End ward and in fact, only gained three seats on the Council overall. Even the recent negativity over Cllr Robert Davies couldn’t disturb the Tory vote on the Council. Not gaining the Council is one thing, but not even really coming close to challenging is pretty poor.

Wherefore Art Thou Lib Dems?

• A win in Richmond was hoped for but not dared to dream of, however this was tempered by a huge loss of seats in Sutton, holding onto the Council but losing 12 councillors.
• Overall, the Lib Dems have gained over 40 seats, which wasn’t something anyone really considered happening so well done them.

So, what does it all mean? Well, that depends where you are sitting. For those of us who have seen planning effectively put on hold since June 8th last year, it may now finally mean that things can move on both at the local level and at the level of the GLA where the unwillingness to intervene in Labour Councils has been notable.

Boroughs where there is a comfortable majority for any party, with a fresh four-year mandate will be able to get back on track – perhaps some internal shake-ups of positions on committees, but ultimately, business as usual (whatever usual is for those individual boroughs). Places where there has been wholesale change, such as Richmond upon Thames, may take a little time to settle in but planning and development is always pretty high on agendas and new leaderships will be keen to make their mark in the early stages – although may have quite different approaches to their predecessors.

And that’s all from us this morning, do let us know if you are looking out for individual results and we will keep an eye out. We will return towards the end of the day – or over the weekend depending on timings – with an update and some more insightful and witty analysis.

Don’t forget, if you want to keep hearing from us after 25th May, click here or you will be forever lost to us and we will mourn you deeply…

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