Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Local elections: expect the opposite of last year

This year's local elections across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are going to be different to last year's. Last year, Labour looked like it had done okay, winning hundreds of council seats across the country. Regular readers will remember, however, that your correspondent was very unimpressed, and held the party to a high standard that they totally and utterly flunked.

This year, Labour's going to look like it's had a drubbing. Boris is going to re-elected as Mayor of London (barring a major, major upset), and the Scottish National Party might be able to take over Glasgow City Council (above).

Both debacles will make Labour look weak. But actually, and especially after the successes of the last few weeks (when the Government has looked not only nasty, but incompetent with it) they're set to have an 'under the radar' triumph. They're probably going to win many hundreds of council seats. Polling gurus reckon that Labour should make 700 gains on Thursday night. In fact, they might do even better than that. Straws in the wind - local by-elections, for instance - and sub-national polls (for instance one in Wales) suggest that Ed Miliband's people are doing very well. They'll be helped by defecting Lib Dems, of course. But throw in a general fall in the Conservative vote, already noticeable at local by-election level (mainly caused by voter defections to UKIP and probable stay-at-home abstentions) and you're looking at a lot of gains.

This stuff matters. It creates momentum. It fosters an impression of where we're going politically. Perhaps most importantly, council election victories create armies of campaigners for the 'ground war' to come in 2014 and 2015. If Labour can marshall its forces properly, its retreat in London and Glasgow will only mask the intriguingly rapid incoming of the red tide.

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