A week after the local elections across the UK the fallout and repercussions for all of the main political parties are important. The Labour Party has gained, in all places, very credible results, and in others very good results. The Tory/Lib Dem coalition has been placed under increased stress and strain, although the likelihood of it falling apart anytime soon still appears to be minimal. Furthermore, the leadership of both parties are likely to come under a continual barrage of abuse from their backbenches as the chances of either of the two remaining in government after the 2015 general election looks less and less likely.
Firstly, Labour, and Ed Miliband in particular, have received a tremendous boost by these results which surpassed the expectations of both themselves and their rivals. Particularly striking results came in Glasgow (where under massive SNP pressure Labour gained a majority and took the council), Wales (where the party took a firm grip on its old heartlands), and across the south (an area in which labour have traditionaly struggled). Furthermore, Labour’s percentage of the vote, which lay around 38/39%, which, if repeated in a general election would give Labour a healthy majority. These results are particularly impressive for Ed Miliband considering that much of the public is still skeptical about his ability to lead.
One slight disappointment for Labour, and an equally slight boost for the Tories came in the London mayoral contest, in which Boris Johnson scraped home against a lacklustre Ken Livingstone. Although Johnson’s ability to win this contest against a backdrop of much gleeful Tory bashing proved that Labour were not untouchable on the night, it is clear that the win was a largely personal one for Johnson, proven by Labour’s polling in the London GLA elections. Livingstone didn’t help the Labour efforts in London by hypocritically attacking Johnson over tax affairs. It is clear that Livingstone was not the right choice.
Further good news from Johnson’s London victory for Labour is the fact that Johnson has now become a very large spectre haunting David Cameron and looking ready to begin what will inevitably be a popular push for the Tory leadership. This is good news for Labour for two reasons: 1. Johnson’s bid will further fan the flames currently burning amongst Tory backbenchers against Cameron’s modernisers and 2. I cannot bring myself to truly believe that Johnson will be elected by the public on an international stage. Johnson’s old Etionian pomp and circumstance, coupled with his numerous blunders, will surely make him unelectable as a Prime Ministerial candidate to a public that finds him electable as a local leader. Thus Johnson’s win in London, presumably followed in the future by his bid for Tory leadership, is good news for the Labour party.
Elsewhere the Tories took a battering in the polls, losing 300 council seats even when we disregard anti-Tory Scotland. The loss of council seats further antagonised already riled Tory backbenchers leading to pleas to leave behind their Lib Dem coalition partners, and a shift to the right which would be disastrous for a partly modernised Tory party.
Finally, the poor Lib Dems find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. The Lib Dems have two options available: 1. to continue as they are in the coalition or 2. to break away from the coalition, potentially forcing a general election and risking the wrath of the voters on a party desperately trying to showcase independence from the unpopular Conservatives. Nick Clegg, and most Lib Dems (and Tories) realise that option 2 is a no-starter as the Lib Dems will certainly face a massive exodus of voters to Labour and elsewhere. Therefore, the Lib Dems will have to spend the next few years holding on to Tory shirt tails whilst trying to prove to voters they are trying to make a difference, but almost definitely failing to do so and taking a massive hit in 2015 nonetheless.
The Labour party therefore are the clear winners from the local elections (ignoring, as we all should do, George Galloway and his unashamedly populist Respect party in Bradford). Both sides of the coalition suffered big losses and the Lib Dems look set to leak voters to Labour in future elections. Best of all for Ed, he was egged the next day, so people really are starting to take notice!