Local Elections: May’s UKIP Sweep Crushes Corbyn’s Labour

First, the good news: UKIP were defending 147 council seats across Britain. As of publication, they had lost all of them as their vote plummeted.

The bad news is - for Labour at least - that the Conservative Party was the beneficiary. Even where the Labour vote held up they were drowned as former Kippers turned to the Conservatives.

This was an astonishingly dreadful night for the Labour Party. It was a great night for Theresa May.

Twenty years ago Tony Blair’s landslide reduced her party to an English rump. Even in 2015 they were only able to pick up a handful of seats in Wales and one in Scotland. These elections may be a sign of a coming era of Conservative dominance.

In Dorset, Hampshire and Essex - none of them fertile ground for Labour - May’s party strengthened its grip. In Cumbria and Warwickshire they overtook Labour as the largest party; in Gloucester they gained a majority. The won seats from Independents on the Isle of Wight to become the majority party.

In Lincolnshire - a Brexit stronghold - UKIP lost all thirteen of its seats while the Conservative went up from 35 to 58 to gain a majority.

Most worryingly, in Nuneaton - the defining swing seat of 2015 - the Labour vote was down 12%. The Conservatives made huge gains.

If the night was a deeply depressing one for Labour, it was certainly disappointing for the Lib Dems

In Wales, the Labour vote held up in Cardiff, Neath Port Talbot, Newport and Flintshire - they struggled elsewhere though. In the valleys Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent were lost to Independents. Labour Bridgend - the constituency of Carwyn Jones, the Welsh Labour leader - fell and the Conservatives won Monmouthshire from no overall control.

Labour lost but so did Plaid Cymru who were unable to make gains off a weak Labour. The story of election night was one of Independent and Conservative gains. The big question is: where will those who deserted Labour for independence go in June?

In Scotland - where counting begins later - Labour looks like it will pay the price for errors under various leaders: since the referendum, they ran away from unionism; in 2015, they thought anti-austerityism would save them. Both were profound mistakes that worsened their decline. Independence dominates politics and, despite advocating Home Rule in all but name, Labour are not on the pitch.

The Conservatives are expecting a good result - much of which can be put down to Ruth Davidson. Labour can expect a third place finish. It is a huge loss for the party from which it may take a generation to recover.

If the night was a deeply depressing one for Labour, it was certainly disappointing for the Lib Dems. They had been expecting to make gains, instead they faced losses. Even in Somerset, once natural territory, where they could reasonably expect to takes seats from the Tories, they failed to make gains. Their vote share was up but not where it mattered.

The Lib Dem fightback will have to remain a hashtag.

In the metro mayoral races, Labour’s Ros Jones won in Doncaster, while Andy Burnham looks set to win well in Manchester and Steve Rotheram is on course in Liverpool. Votes from Bristol took Labour to the second round of voting for the West of England but they failed to win on second preferences. All eyes will now be on the West Midlands mayoralty - a crucial general election arena.

With more results to come in Theresa May’s party exceeded expectations looking to gain more than four hundred seats as Labour loses almost as many.  

Labour is heading towards its worst result since 1931

This was a nightmare election for Labour. The last time these seats were contested David Cameron's Tories were in a rut but Labour failed to capitalise like a winning opposition. They are going backwards on Miliband;s lacklustre performance. In 2015, they lost votes to UKIP. Those voters have now gone over to the Tories. If that pattern is replicated at the general election then Theresa May will win big and win in some very unexpected places.

There is a word of caution: at least in England, few of the counties contesting seats are natural Labour areas. Turnout is lower than at a general election: some reports suggested that, in some elections, turnout was as little as 25%.

Also, how people vote in local elections does not always affect their general election vote. But this does not necessarily favour Labour - for instance, in Wales local election polls showed Labour just ahead of the Conservative, but 10% behind for the general election.

2017 is unusual in that it will be the first time since 1987 that a general election has followed regional ones. It is even rarer in that Parliament has already been dissolved. In 1983 and 1987, Margaret Thatcher used them as an indicator of the national mood. In both cases she outperformed expectations from council elections.

However if they are any guide, Labour is heading towards its worst result since 1931 when they were smashed by the National Government.

As Strathclyde’s Professor John Curtice said: the results are largely in line with what opinion polls predicted. June 8th is going to be grim for Labour supporters.

A change is gonna come, but not the one that Corbynistas boasted about.

@grakirby

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