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Tory setback

In London, the three previously “true blue” local authorities under the Conservatives, notably Wandsworth, Westminster and Barnet have been lost to Labour.

Statesman News Service |

Local elections in Britain would scarcely have been of much moment were it not for the fact that the latest tryst with democracy could almost inevitably impinge on the fortunes of the ruling Conservative party, helmed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Small a wonder the nation was riveted to the outcome for quite a while. As it turns out, the performance of the Tories has been indifferent, almost pedestrian for a party that has been in the saddle for as long as it has. 

In London, the three previously “true blue” local authorities under the Conservatives, notably Wandsworth, Westminster and Barnet have been lost to Labour. Elsewhere, however, Labour has not performed quite well enough to assume that Keir Starmer is on course to become the next resident of 10 Downing Street. Political analysts have predicted that the Tories look set to lose between 200 and 300 councillors given the groundswell of public angst over sleaze and what they call “Partygate”. Labour is reportedly struggling in its former Red Wall seats. The major winners appear to be the Lib Dems and the Greens. They claim that their victories reflect a “real trend” among voters who are looking for an alternative to the establishment parties. The Conservatives’ results in London are “catastrophic”, a former Number 10 chief of staff tweeted. Gavin Barwell, who had served under Theresa May, stated, “Waking up to catastrophic results for the party in London.” 

Indeed, Wandsworth and Westminster were flagship councils, and the psephological swing has bamboozled the nation. “We held them during the Blair honeymoon; we held them under Theresa May; we held them during the phase of austerity. Losing them should be a wake-up call for the Conservative Party”. The party must of necessity analyse the factors behind its dismal performance. 

It is generally acknowledged that the Prime Minister “bears a lot of the responsibility for the very poor results”. It appears that such potentially damaging issues as Partygate made it increasingly difficult to “focus people’s minds on local issues”. Mr Johnson has even been lampooned as a “poor option” to lead the Conservatives in the next election. Arguably, the party might pay for it, if he did. Equally, there is a degree of cynicism about Labour’s prospects; it is generally agreed that it does not have the momentum to go on to win the next general election. 

And yet its latest gains have been described as “absolutely brilliant” and a “big turning point” for the party. While the psephological data cannot be disputed, Labour’s prospects are a different issue altogether. There has doubtless been a rebuff for Mr Johnson from some constituencies, notably in London. This has been in parallel to warnings that economic pressures and the conduct of the government have combined to upset the fortunes of the Tories.