The Conservatives have had a successful night – at least when it comes to their expectation management campaign. There will be sighs of relief in CCHQ this morning over the first influx of local election results after the much anticipated Tory bloodbath in the local elections appears to have been more of a light wound than anything fatal.
The Tories have managed to hold control of both Wandsworth and Westminster. There had been a consensus growing that were they to hold on to just one of these council it could be spun as a success. If they can hold on to Kensington – which they are now expected to – and stop Labour from taking control of Barnet then the London results will start to look rather positive relatively speaking. That said, it’s not been a great night elsewhere for the Tories in the capital. The Liberal Democrats have won back control of Richmond council – which will worry Conservatives with regards to Zac Goldsmith’s marginal Parliamentary seat. Meanwhile, Labour have continued to make significant inroads elsewhere in London.
What counts as less good news for the Tories is the gains Labour have made in urban areas across the UK. The Conservatives have lost control of Trafford council – the party’s only council in Greater Manchester and its flagship northern council. However, Labour did not manage to win control – they are instead the largest party with 30 seats. In Plymouth, Labour did manage to take control – something the sitting Conservative MP Johnny Mercer is blaming on defence cuts.
However, overall there is much for the Tories to find hope in. Labour have lost control of Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council which is notable given that Nuneaton was once touted as crucial to the party’s path to power. A lot of the results coming in – full details of which can be found of on the live blog – mirror the EU referendum result, with Leave voters backing the Tories and Remain voters backing Labour and the Liberal Democrats. It follows that tonight’s results don’t yet suggest a clear path to a majority for either of the main parties though I suspect that the Tories will be boosted by how they have fared.
The most striking question for Labour: why did they let expectations run so high? There was little effort made by Jeremy Corbyn or Labour HQ to put a dampener on reports that it would be a night of historic wins for the party. Meanwhile, the Tories lapped this up – using it to push this idea that a night in which Labour didn’t win every single London council would be a bad one for Corbyn. That hasn’t happened and the story of the night is now Labour’s disappointing result.