2019 UK Local Elections Review – Five takeaways

1 Tory losses far exceeded worst expectations

In losing more than 1300 councillors, these results were unarguably awful for the Tories. Yes, they had a long way to fall and a backlash from Brexiters angry at their failure to deliver was predictable. But the scale defied the experts – the higher academic estimate noted in my preview was 800 – and Betfair markets.

When noting under 4000 seats had been matched early at 4.0, I regarded it an outlier. In fact, these odds drifted to 10.0 before winning with ease.

It was also bad for Labour, who expected to make progress but actually lost seats. Jeremy Corbyn is now the least successful opposition leader, so far as local elections are concerned, in over 40 years.

There were three winners. The Lib Dems landed my advised bet with hundreds of seats to spare, storming back to national relevance in the process. The Greens enjoyed their best ever night. And the spoilt ballot party won a record 40,000 votes.

2 Farage poised to dominate the Euros

Voters spoil ballot papers for various reasons but obviously vast numbers were a reaction to Brexit. UKIP stood in less than a fifth of all seats and Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party in none. That the Tories performed so absymally despite no meaningful right-wing opposition should terrify them.

Farage will contest the European Elections later this month, for which BP are now just 1.25 to win most seats – reflecting a growing poll lead. As important is the enthusiasm his rallies are generating. Such visuals have had a significant effect on recent elections – Trump and Corbyn, for example.

It smacks of the SNP surge in 2014 after losing their independence referendum – an insurgent movement with a narrative, catching a large chunk of the public mood while a split opposition fight among themselves. The establishment parties are lost at how to respond.

The immediate reaction, for example, from Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn was to talk up the need for what would be an unpopular Brexit deal, taking the results as a signal to ‘get on with it’. This doesn’t stack up on either side.

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