For the Tories
‘A tough night’ was what Conservative chairman Sayeeda Warsi predicted for her party, and so it proved true as the party faced a mass rejection from voters across the country as they lost 403 council seats, 12 council majorities and 2 London assembly seats. With articles questioning Cameron’s competency floating around, these elections alongside a disastrous response to the mayoral system across the country, have served a severe blow to the Conservatives in moving forward.
These loses have provoked Tory backbenchers to demand that the Prime Minister drop unpopular policies such as gay marriage and House of Lords reform.
Senior Conservatives blamed the results on “mid-term blues” and said that the turnout was just 32 per cent nationally. Party strategists pointed out that Tony Blair lost more than 1,000 council seats in the late 1990s but still won a landslide majority in the 2001 general election.
The London mayoral contest provided some respite for the Prime Minister with Boris Johnson winning, although the results were far closer than expected and much of his win is attributed to not being a ‘traditional conservative’.
The results are expected to fuel calls for David Cameron to reshuffle his ministerial team (which many think is due anyway) and add to pressure on the Prime Minister and his deputy, Nick Clegg, to outline a compelling programme for government in the Queen’s Speech next week.
According to The Guardian, Cameron’s aides have already started discussions on whether to offer a referendum on Europe in the party’s election manifesto, and make this known before the European elections in 2014 as a way of spiking the guns of Ukip. However this would probably be damaging for Cameron’s personal integrity.
However you read the results, the elections were an excellent day for Labour, even if there are questions around turnout and the mayoral contest, the overall picture of Labour gaining 32 council majorities, 824 council seats and 2 London assembly positions will consume the national papers and therefore the minds of the majority.
Ed Miliband’s party even won council seats in the Prime Minister’s own constituency, although Miliband was careful to not seem complacent saying in a local cafe “we are a party winning back people’s trust, regaining ground, but there is more work to do”, even as they faced stiff competition from SNP for seats in Glasgow, Labour managed to secure the council, possibly as a result of Scots being unconvinced by the SNPs fight for independence.
The question that local elections implicitly ask of voters is “do you like the government?” The question in a general election is “will you change the government?” Labour’s swings do not demonstrate at this point, national appetite to have Ed Miliband as PM but this is a step forward and Milibands response has been positively received by many.
For the Liberal Democrats
During the run up to these local elections, the Lib Dems were trying to stamp their foot down on many government proposals, going against collective cabinet, now, after losing 438 council seats, falling below 3,000 councillors for the first time in the party’s history and coming 4th in the London mayoral elections, the future of the Liberal Democrats looks bleak.
With the Conservatives facing calls within their own party to stop listening to the Lib Dems so much, the Lib Dems may soon be feeling pushed out of their own Coalition. Clegg is also feeling pressure to distance the Lib Dems from the Tories, amid fears that his party’s roots are being poisoned by the Coalition.
“One more election like this and we will be in danger of no longer being a national party,” said the party’s former Treasury spokesman Lord Oakeshott.