As I write, the results of Britain’s bumper crop of elections – 5,000 seats across nearly 150 English councils, the entirety of the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments, plus assorted mayoralties and police and crime commissioners for flavour – have barely started. The recriminations, however, are in full swing. The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that Labour is in trouble.
It’s hard to say that’s wrong. Okay, there are vast numbers of results still to declare, including many that should look better for the party and worse for the Tories. Labour’s Tracy Brabin is the favourite to comfortably win the new West Yorkshire mayoralty, which covers a hefty chunk of Red Wall; the party might gain West of England, a sort of Greater Bristol & Bath, from the Tories, too. What’s more, the fact the party of government has seemingly given up hope of ever again governing the capital – whose mayoralty it held a mere five years ago – has gone weirdly under discussed.
But if it isn’t all bleak for Labour it is, nonetheless, mostly bleak. The Hartlepool by-election is shocking not so much for the result as for its scale. If the Brexit Party hadn’t won 25 per cent of the vote in 2019, Labour would have fallen in 2019 anyway, but it’s a 16 point swing, with more than half the votes, 51.9 per cent, going to the Tories. (Now where have we heard that number before?)
We’re going to see a lot of takes over the next few days that can be summed up as “these results show that I was right all along”Jonn ElledgeJonn Elledge
More worrying, though less discussed, will be the party’s almost certain failure to take the West Midlands mayoralty. That conurbation, of nearly 3 million people, contains 28 constituencies, most of which used to vote Labour. It’s also younger and more diverse, so it’s not immediately obvious why it shouldn’t be following London and Manchester into Labour’s arms.
Oh – and no one is expecting any resurgence in Scotland. Without that, it’s hard to see the party getting a majority ever, ever again.
We’re going to see a lot of takes over the next few days that can be summed up as “these results show that I was right all along”.