The Tories are celebrating following Thursday’s local elections in England.
Labour’s Keir Starmer has responded with decisive action. But it’s not by resigning himself—as he should have done—but by sacking Angela Rayner from her roles as the party’s chair and national campaign coordinator.
It is a prelude to an assault on the Labour left that will undoubtedly follow—and underlines how rotten Labour has now become.
Counting is continuing in England and Scotland.
But after results were declared in 119 of 143 English councils, Labour had lost 279 councillors and control of several councils.
The Tories had gained control of ten councils and had 236 more councillors. Polling expert Sir John Curtice said traditional Labour territory in north eastern England had “been well and truly painted blue”.
The Tories took Hartlepool from Labour in a by-election with a majority of nearly 7,000. In the Tees Valley, Tory Ben Houchen was re-elected mayor with 73 percent of the vote. The area used to vote Labour. But Thursday saw a swing of 23 percent from Labour to Tory.
And it isn’t only in the north east of England.
Rotherham, South Yorkshire, has been a solid Labour town for decades. But after 59 out of 63 results had been declared, the Tories had won 20 seats. Previously they had none. Many of the Tory seats seem to have come from Ukip, which lost 14 seats. But Labour had also lost 12.
Labour hasn’t been wiped out. Labour mayors were re-elected in Doncaster, Salford, North Tyneside and the Liverpool City Region.
It kept control of many councils. They included Liverpool, St Helens, Wigan, Manchester, Rochdale, Oldham, Gateshead, Newcastle upon Tyne, Sunderland, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Coventry, Slough and Exeter.
But it lost Sheffield, Plymouth and Rossendale to no overall control. Sheffield has its first Tory councillor since 2007.
The Tories took control of Harlow council in Essex from Labour. They also won Pendle, Maidstone, Cornwall, Nottinghamshire, Basildon, Northumberland, Dudley and Nuneaton and Bedworth from no overall control.
And they took control of Cannock Chase District Council in the Midlands for the first time since it was created in 1974.
It is unusual for a government to gain seats in council elections. And the Tory gains come after their disastrous handling of the pandemic and as Boris Johnson remains mired in corruption scandals.
The results are a damning indictment of Starmer’s Labour. It’s also likely a reflection that Labour councils, for decades, have not only failed to stop cuts but implemented them.
Many of the Tory gains came in areas that voted to leave the European Union, perhaps indicating that Labour’s position of calling for a second referendum is still costing it votes.
And after years of Labour members themselves attacking the party as “antisemitic”, it’s no surprise that some people have been turned off the party.
Starmer accepted that Labour has “lost the trust of working people”.
Former left wing leader Jeremy Corbyn was right to say that the party under Starmer has offered nothing but “insipid support for the government”.
Greens make gains
The Lib Dems and Greens have also gained seats. The Lib Dems are now the biggest party in Stockport while the Greens won their first ever councillor there.
Lib Dem gains in Cambridgeshire took the council from Tory control to no overall control. They also won seats in Sunderland, where Labour kept control but lost nine seats.
By Saturday afternoon, the Greens won councillors in nine councils for the first time— Durham, East and West Sussex, North Northamptonshire, Cumberland, Northumberland, Stockport, Hastings and Derbyshire. They also gained five councillors in Sheffield, two in South Tyneside and six in Suffolk.
Welsh Labour makes gains
In elections for the Welsh Senedd (parliament), Labour did better than it was expected to.
It held nearly all its so-called “red wall” seats that the Tories had hoped to win. Labour beat the Tories in Wrexham, Alyn and Deeside, Clywd South, Bridgend and the Vale of Glamorgan.
Labour lost only one seat to the Tories in Vale of Clwyd. It also won back Rhondda from Plaid Cymru and held Llanelli.
Overall Labour won 30 seats in Wales—half the total—and matched its best ever result.
Plaid Cymru came third with one seat gained, but it made no breakthrough.
Labour has headed the Welsh Senedd and has benefited from its coronavirus policy being seen as better than Johnson’s.
But the Tories did gain two constituencies.
Ukip had previously held seven seats, but none of these went to the successor organisations that have replaced it.