It's not over yet
What are we to make of the local elections? The headline losses for Labour speak for themselves, but there are some important points to note behind these. Although they never looked like losing it, Labour won the Manchseter mayoralty on a huge swing. While the usual doomsayers were quick to bemoan the leadership qualities of Jeremy Corbyn, Andy Burnham argued that Corbyn "added to the vote in many ways". http://www.lbc.co.uk/radio/presenters/iain-dale/andy-burnham-dont-count-jeremy-corbyn-out/?utm_source=t.co&utm_medium=referral
Above is an interesting graphic showing the party share of the vote in the mayoral elections. Labour lost the Tees Valley and West Midlands mayoralties by very narrow margins and in the former case on just a 21% turnout. Even in the southwest, a Corbynite candidate lost out by just 4,000 votes.
In Wales, despite losses overall, they held Cardiff and other cities and made gains in Swansea, despite a big effort led by May to redraw the political map there. The Scottish results must be seen in a context where the Tories are now seen as the most full-blooded supporters of Brexit and non-independence and it's a sign that the SNP strategy of linking the two issues is backfiring. It was noteworthy that a Conservative who won a seat in Glasgow thanked the SNP for their strategy, rather than blaming Labour's years of control of the city council for his win. Labour was never going to make a breakthrough in Scotland in this time frame given the deep-rooted nature of Labour's problems there.
Extrapolating from these results across the UK, Labour are about 11 points behind the Tories - bad - but a narrower gap than existing polls have claimed so far. The 20 plus point poll lead that was being reported less than a fortnight ago is now history. Hence Tory caution on taking nothing for granted.
UKIP lost every seat they were defending bar one.Jeremy Corbyn's Labour can take credit for that, not just from the Stoke by-election onwards, but because if any other Labour leader who ran in 2015 or 2016 had been elected, they would have made concessions to UKIP's line on immigration. Whatever else the general election throws up, we will have destroyed UKIP at a time when other such movements are growing across Europe. That is important.
The Lib Dem recovery never happened - so much for them being the repositiory of disgruntled Remainers. This vindicates Labour's position of articulating a different Brexit that works for ordinary people, as opposed to Blair's irrelevant idea that the election should be a re-run of the 2016 EU referendum. The collapse of UKIP and the continued decline of the Lib Dems - from an already low base midway through the Coalition - also adversely affected Labour. In Hastings, for example, we lost three seats, but increased our share of the vote from 38 to 45%.
I think Labour will continue to close the gap. Their policies are more popular. Jeremy Corbyn is a tireless campaigner and unlike May, actually looks as if he's enjoying it. Turnout will be higher in June and that should help Labour. John McDonnell said after the last leadership election that we needed a year to turn the bad polls around - in fact we've been given eight months only. But our membership is three times larger than at the last election and morale seems high. The Tory campaign by contrast looks contrived, given their refusal to debate publicly or meet real voters and even desperate in their claims that Eurocrats are trying to distort the outcome, obviously an appeal to dimmer UKIP voters. They have even taken "Conservative" off some of their election literature - their pollsters are telling them it doesn't appeal. So they know it's not a done deal - pundit John Curtice said exactly this on BBC - he also said the SNP have a bigger job on their hands than they thought https://twitter.com/imajsaclaimant/status/860586634986782721 - and we should take courage from that.
There's also excellent analysis here from Michael Calderbank:
NOTE: Peter Chowney is leader of Hastings council, a strong supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and PPC for Hastings and Rye. If you can help his campaign with canvassing, please firstname.lastname@example.org. There's also a contact voicemail number, 01424 559811.