Last week, I pondered how bad the latest council elections would be for the Tories. The answer is nothing like as bad as experts predicted. Rather than take a mid-term thrashing, they were tied for projected national vote share with Labour, whose 77 gains were way below the widely forecast 200 target. According to BBC analysis, their vote was up on 2012, 2014 and 2016.
Any eight-year old government would take that and the market reaction was predictably positive. The Conservatives fell from 1.98 to 1.9 to win Most Seats at the next election and, despite a disastrous fortnight reeling from the Windrush scandal, Theresa May appears to have avoided any coup speculation. The big picture, however, remains anything but clear cut.
Ignore The Canary. Labour had a disappointing night
To some on the Left, merely winning the most seats and advancing in London represents progress that a hostile media is downplaying. Whatever Labour’s wider, toxic relationship with certain media outlets, this is palpably untrue.
Here are some objective facts about last Thursday's local election results courtesy of @skwawkbox
Wouldn't it be nice if the msm did its job instead of parroting the misleading narrative promulgated by naysayers, malcontents and of course the Tories too. https://t.co/m43D15kMkB
— Chris Williamson MP (@DerbyChrisW) May 6, 2018
It is true that much of the media coverage was overly gloomy, because early results outside the cities were terrible and it was clear by that stage Labour wouldn’t hit their targets in London. As the night wore on, better news emerged from the cities, Plymouth, Kirklees and Trafford – altering the narrative to the draw by as implied by vote share.
But to be tied with the government mid term is a fundamentally poor long-term signal. Before Thursday, Stephen Fisher of ElectionsEtc was mooting somewhere approaching a 10% lead as a target. When Ed Miliband won these exact elections, he led by 2% on PNS. A year later, he lost nationally by 6%.