The early signs from the English local election results are that the Tories are in for a rout. Rishi Sunak’s first electoral test since he became prime minister may go very badly for him.
Surveys showed the cost of living was the number one issue for voters. And that the Tories have let prices soar and bitterly opposed strikes when workers try to keep up with inflation.
There was good news from Walkden North near Manchester where the fascist Britain First party hoped to win and anti-racists have fought hard against them. Britain First took 405 votes—too many—but came far behind Labour on 1.244. The size of the fascists’ vote should be a warning against complacency, but it is down on the last time they stood here.
Only about 1,700 of 8,000 seats up for election in 230 English councils were counted overnight. The Conservatives were doing badly, but by 6.30am there wasn’t a great Labour surge.
Polling expert Sir John Curtice wrote on the BBC website it was possible the Tories would reach the threshold of 1,000 seat losses. But he added the “spoils” were being more evenly divided than expected between Labour and the Lib Dems.
“Labour will be disappointed that it looks as though their vote is simply on a par with their performance in last year’s local elections. Although the Conservatives are still five points down on 12 months ago,” Curtice wrote.
Labour gained in several areas where the racist Ukip party had done well before. After its collapse, Labour’s vote went up—in Sunderland, for example. This is part of a wider pattern. Labour has seen its biggest gains in council wards that voted to Leave the EU in 2016.
Labour made big gains to take control of Stoke-on-Trent—a “red wall” city. Labour took control of Plymouth. As well as the general feeling against the government, the previous minority Conservative administration faced anger after chopping down 110 healthy city centre trees overnight.
Labour councils don’t offer any real change. The Unite union revealed on election day that the Labour-controlled Cumberland council is using new pro-scabbing laws in an attempt to bust a strike. Refuse workers employed by Allerdale Waste Services began strikes last week.
Allerdale Waste Services is a private company that is 100 percent owned by Cumberland council. Its bosses are using a new measure passed last year that lets employers freely recruit agency workers to break strikes.
It’s hard to say what these results might mean in a general election. There were no votes in the whole of Wales and Scotland or in some big English cities, including London, Bristol and Birmingham.
The turnout is low and some people were turned away from voting because of the new vote-suppressing ID laws. The Electoral Commission said these rules “posed a greater challenge for some groups in society and that some people were regrettably unable to vote as a result.” These “groups” are young people, the very old, poorer people and certain ethnic minorities.
But Labour claims that, based on results so far, it would have won Westminster constituencies. They include Hartlepool, Stevenage, Dudley South, Ipswich, West Bromwich East, Great Grimsby and Aldershot—which has been held by the Tories for more than 100 years.
Shabana Mahmood, Labour’s national campaign coordinator, said, “These results show that we are on course for a majority Labour government.”
The last time the seats contested on Thursday were up for election in 2019, the Tories did terribly. Newspapers were universally damning. The Guardian said losses were the party’s worst in 24 years. The Daily Mail asked, “So now will they listen?” The Times went with “shattered Tories tell May to set exit date” and said the Tories could be “out of power for a generation.”
But the Tories are still in government, still attacking workers and spreading racism. These results should be another spur to build the struggles that really matter—in the streets and the workplaces.
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