Jeremy Corbyn’s party has swerved universal disaster in the UK’s local and devolved elections, with losses under his leadership so far in England fewer than some in the party had feared. But with meltdown for the party in Scotland, and losses where there should traditionally be gains at this point in the electoral cycle, Labour’s performance was not exactly that of a government in-waiting.
There were elections in 124 English councils, from Carlisle to Plymouth. Some were electing all councillors, while others were voting in a third or a half of seats. In London, if Labour wins the mayoralty it will be hailed by Jeremy Corbyn supporters as proof of his supposed appeal, even if he paid little part in the campaign.
The Tory vote is down in southern England, which may have helped Labour to retain control of councils in areas such as Crawley, Southampton, Norwich and Hastings, where its vote was looking vulnerable. But the Tories so far have picked up a handful of seats, not a terrible result for a party in power for six years.
Responding to claims that Labour was not doing as well as it should be, deputy leader Tom Watson said Jeremy Corbyn still had a “very strong mandate” and needed “more time” to show he could revive its fortunes in time for the 2020 general election.
In Scotland, Labour suffered a disaster. Voters in Scotland elected MSPs in 73 constituencies, plus top-up MSPs in eight regions, to a total of 129. The regional seats are awarded taking into account the constituency results in a way which compensates parties with a strong regional vote who did not get many constituency seats. At the last Holyrood election, Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP had a five-seat majority.
With all the results now declared in Scotland, the SNP is the largest party with 63 seats, ahead of the Conservatives on 31 and Labour on 24.
Nicola Sturgeon has proclaimed that the SNP have won an “historic” third victory in Scottish Parliament elections – which is true to an extent. The Nationalist party has now won three of the 5 elections to the Scottish Assembly. But they do not have enough seats to form a majority government, which they achieved in 2011. The SNP took 63 seats, leaving them two short, so the Scottish First Minister may have to do a deal with another party – probably the Greens, who have won six seats – to get legislation through.
Equally historic was the rise of the Scottish Conservative Party. Labour have been pushed into third by the resurgent Scottish Tories who more than doubled their number of seats on the last assembly (coming in at 31MSPs, its best result since devolution was introduced in 1999) while Labour lost 13 seats. The Conservatives also did well in the constituency vote. Conservatives are now the biggest opposition party in Scotland.
David Cameron tweeted that Ms Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, would “stand up to the SNP and give Scotland strong opposition”.
Congratulations to @Ruth_E_Davidson on this historic result: she is a leader who will stand up to the SNP & give Scotland strong opposition.
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) May 6, 2016
Also significant is the Greens beating the Lib Dems into fifth. The Lib Dems are now one seat behind the Greens with a total of 5 MSPs.
In Wales, Labour has done well. The vote was to elect an Assembly Member in 40 constituencies, plus top-up AMs in five regions, to a total of 60. The regional seats are awarded based on constituency results which can compensate parties with a strong regional vote who did not get many constituency seats. In the last assembly, Labour had exactly half of the seats, and Carwyn Jones led a minority government as first minister. Approximately a third of seats are in at the time of writing and voter turnout was 45.3%.
UKIP has surged in Wales, it is already clear. It is set to win seven Welsh Assembly seats, its first seats in the Assembly. The winners include former Tory MPs Neil Hamilton and Mark Reckless (elected via the regional list). UKIP leader Nigel Farage claimed the party “now stands up for many traditional Labour voters”.
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood achieved a shock win in Rhondda, one of Labour’s heartland valley seats. Labour is still expecting to remain the dominant party in Wales but expected to fall just short of a majority. Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn activist Charlotte Church voted Plaid Cymru.
In Northern Ireland voters chose representatives for the Stormont Assembly for the same 18 constituencies which return Westminster MPs, but with a different voting system. Six members are returned by each constituency by single transferable vote and, unique within the UK, ministries are reserved for any large party, meaning power-sharing is usually guaranteed.
The electoral system necessitates as many as eight rounds per count, so the Stormont results take a while. Results should start coming in this afternoon.
But the biggest result to come is in London, where Labour’s Sadiq Khan appears to be on track to defeat the Tory Zac Goldsmith. The London mayor is chosen by supplementary vote: if no candidate gets 50% of the votes, second preferences are used.
If Sadiq Khan wins the London mayoral election with the comfortable margin that is being forecast, at least the pollsters will be relieved, having failed spectacularly in predictions for last year’s general elections. Results are expected in later today although commentators are already predicting a Labour victory.
John McTernan from the Times Red Box has even written a memo for Sadiq Khan:
Congratulations, you have the third largest electoral mandate in Europe and you have won the biggest Labour victory for eleven years – since Tony Blair won the 2005 General Election. Take a moment to savour that, but the real work starts now.You have the greatest political job job the world, so enjoy it. Use your flair. Show some swagger. So, for example, when Beyoncé is here this summer do a Black Lives Matter event with her and the Met.