Ukip’s demise is nurturing the Tories for now but this should not diminish Labour’s fight, argues Lindsey German
The local elections - so far it must be noted since I'm only commenting on those till about 6am - are, as predicted, gratifying for the Tories. But if we look at some of the results, they still show all to play for in the general election five weeks away.
First the good news: UKIP is having a disastrous night. So far it has lost all its seats, and it looks set for wipeout.
Now the bad news: the Tories are the main beneficiaries of this collapse. They have won seats in a number of places, reflecting their position in the opinion polls.
So far, this endorses the Tory election strategy: Hoover up the UKIP votes on the basis of a strong Brexit, and hope that this knocks out the opposition parties, giving Theresa May a free hand to impose some of the worst attacks on working people for decades.
Labour has lost a number of council seats, as have the Lib Dems. In Wales, Labour has lost control of its stronghold in Blaenau Gwent, and may lose Merthyr, although in both cases to independents not to the Tories. It also lost Bridgend but held on to Newport which is seen as a Tory target.
So not much to cheer there. If these figures are repeated in five weeks’ time we will have a Tory majority government elected on the basis of the collapse of UKIP. But there are reasons to think that we can still stop May's coronation and at the very least prevent her from getting a big majority.
I said yesterday about my trip to Bristol where Lesley Mansell stood as the Labour candidate for metro mayor. She didn't win, but came a very respectable second, in an area which covers parts of Gloucestershire, Somerset and Bath - none of them good territory for Labour. According to John Curtice on the Today programme, the Tories actually lost share of vote compared with the 2015 general election. The Lib Dems, who have some strength in that part of the west of England, and who projected themselves as the main challenger, came third.
Even in Wales, the picture is not as bad as projected polls giving Tories a majority there. In Swansea Labour improved its performance, it held control of Cardiff, in Blaenau Gwent one commentator said a major factor in Labour losing seats was opposition to its bin collections being only once every three weeks, and in Merthyr the independent candidates seem to have been on the left.
In Doncaster, the mayoral candidate got a considerably improved vote. While commentators always stress that Doncaster is a Labour stronghold, they forget that the far right English Democrats won the mayoralty in 2009 and Labour won it back last time with just over a third of the total vote, compared with half this time.
There is undoubtedly a problem in local council elections with lots of strong Labour council areas, which is that they have been implementing cuts which are deeply unpopular and they are regarded as remote and contemptuous of the electorate. But it is not clear so far that this has led to a big rise in Tory support in those areas.
We'll see what the other results are like today. Scotland will be bad for Labour - nothing to do with Jeremy Corbyn. But so far, as Curtice also said, May needs to win big, and these results don't show that. There are five weeks still to go and a lot can happen in five weeks.
What's in a name?
The Tories are reluctant to brand themselves as Tories, preferring to refer to the Empress Theresa in person. That's kind of unusual unless you fear that your name is still toxic to a lot of people. And, guess what, it is. Tory polling shows that May is much more popular than her party, hence the personal placards, posters and her constant reference to - herself. If the Tories are less popular than her, we have five weeks to brand her as a Tory and to associate her with the policies which people associate with the Tories.
Incidentally, I don't know what this means about election spending. According to Craig Murray, who tends to know a lot about this sort of thing, the personal posters should count towards her constituency spending in Maidenhead, which is strictly limited. Hope there isn't another electoral spending scandal coming up.
A strange coincidence
The announcement that 96-year-old Prince Philip was retiring from public engagements is hardly big news, nor will it make any difference to the lives of 99.99% of the population. So why was the announcement made on the day of local elections across much of the country, especially since this event will not take place for several months?
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
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