By Satyaki Chakraborty
The Labour Party in Britain made massive gains in the country wide local bodies elections this week vindicating the opinion polls that the Labour under the leadership of Sir Keir Starmer is set to form the next Government after the national elections scheduled in 2024 or early 2025. The Conservative Party has got a big jolt as all efforts by the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to project a functional government after continuing chaos in administration, failed to produce dividends.
Results of the polls show that the Conservatives have already lost 48 councils, many of them strongholds for long and 960 councillors. When the final results are computed, the losses are expected to be more. The timing of the defeat has embarrassed the Prime Minister as the coronation ceremony took place on May 6 in the presence of the heads of a large number of countries.
The BBC’s projected vote share for the next national poll put Labour on 35 per cent, 9 per cent ahead of the Tories on 26 per cent, but short of the double-digit figures which Sir Tony Blair enjoyed in local elections ahead of his 1997 landslide victory.
“Labour is going to have its biggest lead over the Conservatives in terms of votes than at any point since 2010, but it’s going to be as much to do with the Conservatives being down as much as it is Labour being up,” , a leading political commentator said..
The Labour Party led by Keir Starmer is still engaged in ideological fight with the leftwing led by Jeremy Corbin about the election manifesto of the Party to challenge the tories in the coming national elections. Though Starmer supporters say that the dilution of the earlier Corbyn dominated Left programme has helped the Party in getting support from wider sections of moderate sections of British population, the left wingers say that at the present time of austerity, any compromise on the demands of the workers and the government employees, will adversely affect the prospects.
A spokesperson for grassroots group Momentum said: “To win the next general election, we cannot rely on Tory implosion alone — we need to mobilise our core vote and inspire millions. “People are hungry for change.” The Left wants that Corbyn should be taken back by the leadership as a front ranking campaigner and only joint efforts of the present Labour leadership and the Left will lead to the crushing of the Tories in the 2024 elections.
As against the confidence of the Labour Party, the Conservatives are split. Mr Sunak conceded the results, which could see his party lose more than 1,000 councillors, are “disappointing” but said he is “not detecting any massive groundswell of movement towards Labour or excitement for its agenda.” His pre-poll prediction that the Tories are now moving beyond’ box set drama’ politics is also looking increasingly naïve. His detractors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, former Tory prime ministers told the BBC that Mr. Sunak must own the disastrous results. He can not pass the buck to his predecessors.
The results have naturally given a big boost to the party leadership. Labour leaders said it had made gains in the kinds of seats it needed to win back power at Westminster. “Make no mistake, this means that we are on course for a Labour majority at the next election — a very, very good set of results for us,” said Sir Keir Starmer, the party leader.
Sir John Curtice, a respected elections expert, said that if replicated at a general election the lead of nine percentage points could be “perhaps just enough” for an outright Labour majority at Westminster. But he pointed out that Labour’s share of the vote was no higher than last year and that its lead reflected a slump in the Tory figure.
“Labour will be disappointed that it looks as though their vote is simply on a par with their performance in last year’s local elections, although the Conservatives are still five points down on 12 months ago,” said Curtice.
Michael Thrasher, of the Nuffield Politics Research Centre, said Labour was “falling short” of a general election-winning performance. “Even where it has done well, like Plymouth, the increase in vote share, though large, is not large enough for an overall majority at the next general election,” he added.
However if there is widespread anti-Tory tactical voting at the next election, Sunak could be in serious trouble, given that Labour and the Lib Dems combined secured a national vote share of 55 per cent, compared with the Conservatives’ 26 per cent.. Now the focus of all the political parties have shifted to the next general election. (IPA Service)