MORE TO DO, KEIR.
Labour is at its strongest for decades in local government, the Tories have suffered their worst losses since 1995 and 2013. Yet there is a sense, after last week’s voting, that Sir Keir Starmer hasn’t clinched the deal, that somehow, given eighteen months of good economic news that the Conservatives can claw their way back.
I don’t think it will happen. That powerful feeling that it is time for a change will probably give us a hung parliament with Labour claiming the largest number of seats. Overturning that huge 2019 Tory General Election victory in one go is a big ask, even taking into account that these results did not include Scotland where Labour could now pick up ten to twenty seats. It is also true that a lot of people who voted for smaller parties and local resident associations, will probably direct their anger at the government through Labour when the question is not who runs the council, but who is to run the country.
Labour have got to decide whether to maintain their cautious approach, relying on the Tories to lose or come out with some concrete proposals on social care and housing. Up to now we have largely seen Sir Keir rowing back on his radical leadership manifesto reasoning that the economic landscape has darkened. It is hardly a rallying cry to people who need a home, better services or student loan relief.
The Liberal Democrats did well nationally, but not in the North West. They failed to take Stockport and underperformed in Liverpool. They must be worried that across the region, many are turning to the Greens as a third party option. They have thirteen councillors in Wirral and twenty one in Lancaster.
Independents representing places like Wilmslow (Cheshire East) or Horwich (Bolton) continue to do well but the Reform Party (successor to UKIP) got nowhere in our patch.
THE NORTH WEST RESULTS.
Labour gained control of five councils, Blackpool, Cheshire West, High Peak, South Ribble and West Lancashire. They also had a good result in Cheshire East making ten gains. The Tories also lost control of Pendle and Ribble Valley.
The iron grip of the party on Merseyside is noticeable and spreading. Despite having commissioners running the Liverpool Town Hall, the voters have given their confidence to new leader Liam Robinson to sort out the mess in the next four years. Next door in Sefton, an area once strong with Tories and Lib Dems, Labour now has forty six councillors. So, from Meols in Sefton to Malpas in south Cheshire, the reds are in charge.
Labour claimed they were targeting Tory MPs areas and as a result Paul Maynard and Scott Benton in Blackpool, Katherine Fletcher in South Ribble and Robert Largen in High Peak must be worried this week. All that said Labour missed taking control in Bolton, Burnley, Wirral, and Hyndburn which helps fuel this nagging doubt about their overall performance.