It’s the morning after the day before, and it’s still not really clear exactly what the overall picture will be. Taking a look at the results so far though there are a few broad conclusions we can draw, and the key word across the board is disappointment.
The Conservatives have lost Hammersmith & Fulham council to Labour. They’ll be saying today that the focus should be on Labour’s failure to make a more dramatic impact during these elections, but don’t forget Hammersmith & Fulham. This is David Cameron’s “favourite” council, and one which Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government and professional thumb impersonator, described as “the apple of my eye“.
The reason Cameron and Pickles loved Hammersmith & Fulham? It enthusiastically adopted the most hardline aspects of Tory policy, closing SureStart centres and evicting charities to make space for Tory journalist Toby Young’s shambolic free school. It’s therefore a blow that will be felt especially strongly by the Tory policy unit in the Cabinet Office and Labour are particularly pleased to have taken this council, and achieved a historic result in Redbridge.
But it’s not all good news for Miliband. There’s just not been the force of support for Labour that he and Danny Alexander, Labour’s election coordinator, will have been hoping for. It’s also suffered in northern wards, and the Labour stronghold of Rotherham has seen a surge in UKIP support that will deliver a clear message: Labour needs to do more to convince people dismayed by the Coalition that a vote for Labour is a vote for change.
The Liberal Democrats have taken a mauling and lost control of councils in the home constituencies of several of their ministers. They’ll be feeling very worried about their seats, and that could translate into support for an post-election anti-Clegg putsch, should it come. On the other hand, there’ll be disappointment for Labour that in a lot of places they don’t seem to have been the direct recipients of the ex-Liberal vote. Disenchanted Lib Dems seem to have turned to UKIP as a protest vote against the political machine, though it’s doubtful that this would be replicated in a general election.
UKIP are going to say this is a historic result, but they just haven’t made the progress they’ve hoped for. Although they’re rumoured to be forming a coalition with independents in Castle Point they still don’t have any councils, and it’s likely that this won’t change once all the votes are known. Farage will have been hoping for more – his party’s single issue is on Europe and councillors have no influence on policy in this area, so these elections were about sending a message by gaining a high tally of local councillors. If it’s not jaw-dropping it’s not enough.
There’s also a particular set of complications for UKIP in that its candidates are astonishingly gaffe-prone. If the councillors it gains, which help it not a jot in pulling Britain out of the EU, tarnish its reputation over the next year and dampen its vote at the general election then we could be looking back at these results and reflecting that their success now was actually a failure.
Disappointment for everyone then. It seems that the BNP’s awful adverts have been a complete waste of time and money, and that party has returned to complete irrelevance. It would be nice to think that their voters have seen the errors of their ways, but with the increase in support for UKIP… well you do wonder, don’t you?