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Local Elections in England – Reasons to be Cheerful

David Cameron's interpretation: "Labour has lost touch with those they are supposed to represent"

David Cameron’s interpretation: “Labour has lost touch with those they are supposed to represent”

Even before the polls had closed, the attacks from Corbyn’s opponents had started. It didn’t matter what the actual results were – the narrative had been set already. Lord Kinnock, that fount of wisdom on electoral success, opined in Prospect magazine that the leadership’s policies “are an impediment to getting the kind of support we need”. Neil Coyle MP pre-briefed BBC Newsnight that Labour was “moving further away” from election victory under 2020 under Corbyn.

Kellner’s “consensus”

The polling community, influenced by assumptions of the Westminster bubble, projected substantial losses for Labour. Peter Kellner spoke of a “consensus” that 150-200 seats would be lost. Corbyn’s Labour would lose control of a slew of Councils it previously ran. The party’s internal number-cruncher Greg Cook was issuing similar warnings. They had already concluded that Labour had retreated into its ideological comfort zone, and decided to play primarily to its core vote – with adverse consequences in the key electoral battlegrounds in the South and East. When the results came through, this pre-cooked story did not hold up. The losses on the scale predicted simply failed to materialise.

The verdict passed by voters across the country was substantially more positive. Far from having collapsed, Labour’s national vote share was up on that achieved by Ed Miliband in last year’s general election. Of course further progress still has to be made if we are to regain power in 2020. But the direction is generally positive, even despite the slew of media attacks, and dissent from the inside the PLP. Given that the corresponding local election results in 2011 represented a high water mark – as voters had their first opportunity to vote against the Coalition parties – it was always going to be difficult to make substantial advances this time round. MPs arguing Labour needed to be making hundreds of gains were setting a deliberate impossible target to paint a false picture of failure. They key is to be more successful than before in terms of sustaining forward momentum throughout the government’s term and building a platform for a General Election victory.

In actuality, Labour had a good deal to celebrate in England. London elected Sadiq Khan, with 57% of first and second preference votes. The election of a Muslim mayor with such a handsome majority represented a clear rejection of the vile racist smear campaign run by allies of Lynton Crosby for the Tories. The GLA results saw Labour take the constituency seat of Merton and Wandsworth, previously a Tory stronghold. No adverse effect there.

Elsewhere, too, Labour performed better than expect outside its heartlands, retaining control of councils such as Southampton, Crawley, Hastings, Exeter, Nuneaton, and Redditch. In Worcester, previously regarded as a “barometer” seat in Middle England, Labour made gains to deny the Tories a majority.

Undermined by the local MP

One of the few disappointing results in England was Labour’s loss of Dudley Council to No Overall Control. Here the local Labour MP, a loud-mouthed enemy of the Corbyn leadership blind to the consequences of his own irresponsible behaviour, had never ceased to publicly attack his own party leadership and undermine the credibility of his own party’s policies. Dudley Labour Councillors can feel rightly aggrieved that their MP has undermined their own electoral fortunes. This demonstrates the need for the party to unite ensure that hostile elements within the PLP are confronted, isolated and effectively silenced going forward.

Of course there are no grounds for complacency. Holding our ground was merely the first prerequisite for extending our support, and picking up the momentum we’ll need as we approach 2020 – or earlier, if the civil war in the Tories escalates in the wake of the EU referendum. If Labour fails to recover some ground in Scotland, the gains needed in England to take back power will be all the greater. Yet the Corbyn leadership has proved popular in large parts of the country, including those marginals we’ll need to win back. The Cassandras have been left looking foolish. It’s now time for all sections of the party to unite behind our leader. Those giving ammunition to our opponents must be told that they will not be allowed to wreck our chances going forward.

8 Comments

  1. jeffrey davies says:

    still the blair babies dont get it still they want to rid us of jc but the peasants want jc untill the bb are thrown out of the party then more back stabbing to come

  2. David Boothroyd says:

    Factual point but Labour didn’t make any gains in Worcester. In Warndon ward the sitting councillor defected to the Conservatives but the ward had been rock solid Labour in 2012 so that is not a gain. We did hang on to marginal Cathedral ward but it was the Green Party who made the crucial gain.

  3. John Penney says:

    It was a very good result in England – in the context of the extraordinary “rubbish Corbyn” mass media campaign – intertwined intimately by the constant treachery of the usual uber gobby members of the Labour Right.

    We also need to be completely realistic though that , except in the fantasy of the Labour Right and the Mass media, what was on offer as the “Labour Policy Offer” in most local government areas was NOT any sort of radical “Corbynist” anti austerity programme – but instead the usual old “collaborate with Austerity with tears in our eyes” guff from the same old , often corrupt, always self-serving ,collaborationist Labour Councillors who have gone along with the neoliberal agenda for 30 years – and in the North are quite happy to collaborate with the blatant con-trick of the “Northern Powerhouse” , as long as it increases their little empires (and expenses claims).

    So the voting public still had no genuine coherent “Left, anti austerity” alternative from local Labour in most places, and will still have often voted labour , whilst holding their noses, as the “best of a bad lot”.

    When we on the Left have actually got control of the Labour Party machine, and actually forced through a genuine adherence to a radical Anti-austerity ” policy offer, will be the real beginning of the political fightback in England. The narrative being presented by the mass media and their Labour creatures about the May elections being a “judgement” by the public on 8 months of “Corbynism”, is simply a fallacious joke. We haven’t really got started yet, in transforming the Party and UK politics.

  4. John P Reid says:

    Kinnock wisdom on electoral success, well yes he increase labour a vote from8.4million to 11.56million

    1. David Pavett says:

      Labour lost with 27.6% of the vote in 1983 (14.8% behind the Tories). Four years later in 1987 Labour lost under Kinnock with 30.8% (11.8% behind the Tories).

      Labour lost in 2015, under Miliband, with 30.4% (6.5% behind the Tories). Eight months later, in last week’s elections, Labour got 31% (a 1% lead over the Tories).

      If you can see something in this that points to some greater electoral astuteness on the part of Kinnock then I would like to know what it is.

      1. John P Reid says:

        The 2016 elections were in Labour stronghold,s they can’t be compared to Theresa of the Country if anything the2019 council elections inSurrey Susse chill be the real test.

  5. Mervyn Hyde (@mjh0421) says:

    Excellent article, we in Gloucester made a 1 seat gain, and the Tories gained two, increasing our representation from 9 to now 10. that may not seem something to crow about, but is a lot better than losing a seat.

    Our campaign locally was a bit lack lustre which has inspired those of us on the left to make sure that we really get organised next time, we are putting structures in place, through Momentum that will transform our campaigning machine, starting from setting up a data base that will reach as many supporters as possible.

    The NHS is fundamental in our next campaign, our leadership even now does not understand the political potency of the NHS and the need to reverse everything the Tories have done to it.

    We need to campaign to reinstate the NHS and get all the private sector out, the idea that we can’t afford to reorganise the NHS, that those in the NHS don’t want it is not true.

    The idea that we should keep the commissioning side of the NHS is total fallacy and we need to tell them in the strongest words possible that it just doesn’t wash. Those doctors sitting on the CCGs are needed in front of their patients, not purveying services to providers, they did that in the old structure more effectively, by diagnosing peoples problems and channelling them to the consultants responsible. Nothing could be more efficient.

    Leaving the commissioning structure in place leaves the door open to future privatisation.

    We need to educate the members of the party about the structure of the NHS and why it is so important.

    Dr Allyson Pollock one of Britain’s leading health experts,

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cz5dl9fhj7o

    Is it any surprise that Exeter did well in the local elections.

  6. John P Reid says:

    Most of the Areas fought in 2011 were different to the ones in 2016′ normally polls are 4 years apart,

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