K E Y P O I N T S
Tories retain Westminster, Wandsworth and Kensington and Chelsea in London.
The Conservatives also win control of Barnet, which had been a Labour target, amid the anti-Semitism row.
Jeremy Corbyn’s party picks up Plymouth on the south coast and Trafford in Greater Manchester
But loses overall control of Derby and Nuneaton and Bedworth in the Midlands. And the Tories held on in Swindon
The Conservatives gain Basildon and Peterborough, which had both been under no overall control.
The Lib Dems gain control of Richmond in London, a heavily Remain voting area, from the Tories.
Ukip meanwhile have seen their support collapse - having so far won just two council seats.
S N A P V E R D I C T
From HuffPost UK’s Paul Waugh:
As the country woke up today, it was worth remembering that local election results are a patchwork quilt, not a uniform duvet. Unlike a general election, voters can also often mix-and-match their ballot papers, so it can be notoriously difficult to read wider lessons.
Yet with that health warning notwithstanding, the story of 2018 seems to confirm that of 2017: following the collapse of UKIP and the Brexit vote, Labour is doing well in the big cities, the Tories are doing well in small towns and suburbs, but neither is strong enough to win a Parliamentary majority.
Conservative and Labour MPs alike are asking themselves: have we reached ‘Peak Corbyn’? Despite the mass of activism and canvassing, the party failed to win its key targets like Barnet and Swindon (visited repeatedly by Corbyn), went backwards in Nuneaton, Walsall, Derby and Hillingdon - and only managed to dislodge the Tories in Trafford thanks to a stunning win by the Greens in Altrincham.
The country certainly reached ‘Peak UKIP’ the last time these seats were fought in 2014 (Farage’s party won the Euro elections on the same day). But while Labour’s revival in the snap general election was in part due to winning back Kipper votes, last night it was the Tories who most benefited. In Basildon and Dudley, Tory success was down to UKIP’s demise. In Derby, one of UKIP’s few gains was in taking out the Labour leader. We will get a clearer picture later in Thurrock and Great Yarmouth, where Labour was hoping to win back UKIP voters.
One battle Labour lost terribly was the game of expectations management. Even suggesting it could win Westminster or Wandsworth was ill-advised. In 1990, Tory chairman Ken Baker famously spun that the party retaining the two flagships was a triumph, despite losing lots of other councils at the height of poll tax anger. In 2018, over-eager Labour activists did the Tories’ spin work for them in touting the possibility of upsets in London. That may mask the steady erosion of Conservative support in other areas like Ealing and Redbridge.
In Barnet, Labour genuinely felt it could sneak a win. But instead, the Tories took it back from no overall control and local Labour politicians are in no doubt that the anti-semitism row was to blame for the big drop in votes in Jewish areas. The key was losing West Hendon, which the party has held for 40 years. There may also have been a Brexit effect too, with the Tories going up by 10% and UKIP down by 10%. In Kersal in Salford, the most Jewish ward in the UK, Labour lost to the Tories. In Bury, as well as Barnet, there was a similar pattern.
Corbyn showed last year that he can bounce back from a set of dire local election results to use a national campaign to surprise people. But Labour’s momentum (with a capital ‘M’ and a lower case one) looks stalled after last night. Eight years into a Tory-led government, perhaps the biggest lesson is that Labour cannot rely just on inertia and steady disillusion with the incumbents to win power. To get a sustainable majority, an Opposition needs to actively win, not just bank on a Government passively losing. Last night confirmed the status quo in much of England. And the status quo is no victory for Labour.
R E A C T I O N
Leading pollster Sir John Curtice said the results “remind us how much #Brexit matters”.
Speaking in Plymouth, Jeremy Corbyn said “today is a sign that Labour is back, in this part of Britain”.
Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said the party “should be doing much, much better” it wants to be on track to win the next general election.
Johnny Mercer, the Tory MP for Plymouth, said defence issues had been raised repeatedly on the doorstop in his seat. Labour won the council. He said his party “must do better”.
Also in the early hours on Friday morning, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Conservative energy minister Claire Perry had a huge bust up live on the BBC.