The local elections: ‘good, but’ seems to be the message

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There are moments when politics change, and others when it is hard to tell what is happening. Yesterday included both.

Laura Kuenssberg signed off as chief political correspondent of the BBC with a bizarre piece in which she claimed there was ‘No breakdown or big breakthrough in uncomfortable night for big parties’, which was unfathomable unless you conclude she really is a Tory, and had not noticed they lost near enough 400 seats, which was many more than they feared. Her departure is good news, except I fear Chris Mason will be no better.

What she did celebrate was The Mail forcing Durham police to reinvestigate Keir Starmer. That this leaves questions open on its refusal to investigate the clear cut breaches by Dominic Cummings is something she did not mention. We have to worry about the rule of law when The Mail sets the agenda. The path to fascism is still intact after yesterday.

These two events suggest no change yesterday: the rottenness of our politics and BBC mainstream news coverage of it continues.

So what of elections? The Tory losses are very significant. It is back to having no councils in Scotland or Wales. This is no unionist party. It’s redefinition as a party of the English far right continues.

In that context, the Tory losses in London, Southampton, Oxfordshire, Somerset and elsewhere were significant, and very telling. Their only comfort was that the working class Brexit voter has not returned to Labour, but there are very many Tory MPs who must be profoundly worried now.

Labour did well in Wales and Scotland. It did well in southern cities in England. It has to worry about the north. Can it win Wakefield? Who knows?

And even if Keir Starmer is not guilty of an offence in Durham, and I inclined to that view, he was foolish, as was Labour for getting all its communications on this hopelessly wrong. Bluntly, it was not a great night for Labour, and they know it.

It was, however, a very good night for Anything But Conservative. The LibDem gains showed they really are the Tory challenger in many English seats and the chance that Labour can ‘win’ and then ignore them now is very small.

The Greens also had a good night.

And the SNP increasing their vote share is almost unbelievable after all this time in office. The independence cause is very robust, unless you are in Alba that is, whose prospects look grim.

I was also pleased by another trend. More than 200 losses were sustained by independents, who are almost invariably Tories in disguise. That added to the right wing rout.

But, given all that, where are we? In uncertain territory, I would suggest. Or, to be blunt, we’re looking at a hung parliament. Labour has not made massive gains against an incompetent, corrupt government, and there remains no certainty that it has anything like the required enthusiasm to go further. Starmer still looks and sounds lame. Rachel Reeves does not sound like she has answers to the economic crisis. There really is not a team that is greater than its parts there at present. It may win a bit from the coming economic meltdown but to pretend that there is vision on display in Labour is to seriously overstate things.

Meanwhile, we all know the LibDem vote is partly about protest, but that does not make it irrelevant. It says there are many seriously unrepresented people. And Greens are showing there are real concerns, whilst the SNP hold on Scottish seems it is likely to grow again.

Westminster seat forecasts based on this are hard but with Labour on 36% of votes and Tories on 32% with people now demonstrating considerable ability in voting ABC, my suspicion this indicates decimation for the Tories; significant growth for Labour but well short of a majority, with the SNP third and a revived LibDem group also potentially holding the balance of power. Laura Kuennsberg (again) put it like this:

If ever you wanted to know bout the London-centric view, there it is. The 'others' are of course very largely SNP, plus Northern Ireland and Caroline Lucas.

This split is good, or bad, depending on how you look at it. No one is going to work with the Tories. Labour will then be in office. But who with, and how? Could it work on just confidence and supply with both the LibDems and SNP? Or is the chance of real reform from a short term, unity, government delivering electoral  reform, a Scottish referendum and a real economic alternative based on a Green New Deal on which all can agree possible?

Three things swing this. One is the economy: the Tories may lose more seats. But in England they may well go LibDem.

The second is SNP desire for a retention, which remains low right now.

Third, there are events…..because there always are.

We are in interesting times. The only good news that seems to have any likelihood attached to it is that the Tories are in trouble. What they do next us also telling.

This is  a case of watch this space.