Conservative head quaters will be spinning the line that Thursday's elections represent nothing more than the usual mid-term blues for an incumbent Government. In the wake of a string of blunders, from Abu Qatada to George's far from popular Budget, it was never going to be a good night for Cameron’s party and it is hardly surprising that the Conservatives saw losses for a second year in a row. With notable exceptions, such as Winchester, the Conservatives lost out across the country and Conservative voices can already be heard calling for changes in the Government’s approach.
Labour made progress, winning back control of councils, such as Plymouth and Thurrock; areas where they had lost MPs in 2010. Labour has consolidated its Northern heartland, winning the elections for new directly elected Mayors of Liverpool and Salford, also gaining Carlisle and solidifying their position in Manchester. The party has also progressed in the South and Midlands, gaining Dudley, Exeter and Southampton among others. Ed Milliband will be breathing a sigh of relief and hoping to put questions hanging over his leadership to one side.
The Liberal Democrats will be disappointed, but not surprised, by the results. Though managing to cling to control of most Councils they were defending, such as Cheltenham, Portsmouth and Eastleigh, they sustained significant losses of Councillors across the country. The party now has fewer councillors than ever before, however the party’s performance this year is no worse than last. Nick Clegg is sure to be hoping that his fortunes have already reached their nadir.
Low turn-out across the country and increased support for minor parties means that the result is hardly a stunning one for any of the big three. Labour made progress in bellwether councils across the country, but it remains to be seen whether Labour has made the progress necessary to win a majority at a General Election. In the local elections at this stage in the last Parliament the Conservative lead was almost twice that managed up by Labour on Thursday.
Referenda held in ten English cities, to decide if they wished to bring in a directly elected Mayor, resulted in a resounding defeat of this flagship government policy. Just one of the nine (Bristol) voted in favour of a directly elected Mayor, whilst cities from Birmingham, to Manchester to Newcastle voted “no”.
With Johnson beating Livingstone by 3% in the most high-profile election of the day, for Mayor of London, Cameron will be hoping that Boris’ second victory over Ken has provided him with a large enough political shield to defend against attacks from both inside and outside the Conservative Party.
With all the results now in, BBC is now projecting a national result of: Labour 38%, Conservatives 31%, Lib Dems 16%.
[Top image from Flickr, by Coventry City Council]
[Boris Johnson image from Flickr, by Back Boris]