Labour and the Conservatives enjoyed mixed results in the 2018 local elections, with neither party able to claim a decisive victory.
Jeremy Corbyn cheered a Labour gain in Plymouth, but the party failed to pick up any other new councils - including in London where activists had targeted the Conservative strongholds of Westminster and Wandsworth.
As well as holding off Labour in the capital, the Tories picked up the hung council of Barnet. It wasn’t all good news for Theresa May’s party, as they lost control of Trafford in Greater Manchester.
The Lib Dems gained four councils - including the London boroughs of Richmond-upon-Thames and Kingston-upon-Thames from the Tories - in what was a good night for the party.
Ukip was virtually wiped out, losing 123 councillors and winning just three.
Although voting took place in just 150 council areas across England, the BBC projected that if the trend was echoed at the next general election, Labour would be the largest party with 283 seats, with the Tories second on 280 and the Lib Dems on 22. Such an outcome would deliver the third hung parliament out of the last four national votes.
Heading into the election, Labour were confident of a good night in London. Yet despite picking up councillors in the Tory strongholds of Westminster and Wandsworth, Jeremy Corbyn was unable to add either of those councils to his crown – despite buoyant noises in the run up to polling day.
Visiting Wandsworth this morning, Theresa May said: “Labour thought they could take control, this was one of their top targets and they threw everything at it, but they failed.”
While Labour were unable to win any new councils in the capital outright, the Tories and Lib Dems were able to pick up some new jewels. Richmond-upon-Thames switched from blue to yellow, while Barnet went from no overall control to Tory, as the home of the UK’s largest Jewish community returned five fewer Labour councillors than in 2014.
Reflecting on the results, London Mayor Sadiq Khan told the BBC: “I think there are lots of voters, Jewish people in London, who don’t feel comfortable voting Labour. That can’t be right.”
As in last year’s General Election, Labour did well in urban areas. The party gained a seat on Newcastle City Council to further consolidate its dominance over the Lib Dems (56 Lab; 19 Lib Dems; 3 Ind) and remains in controlled of Leeds, despite losing two councillors.
Labour retained Birmingham, although as of 5.30pm it was unclear by how many seats, while in Manchester its dominance was weakened by the width of the ballot paper: the Lib Dems now have two of the 96 seats, with Labour controlling the other 94.
Of the metropolitan councils which had just a third of its seats up for grabs, there was only a significant change in one: Trafford, in Greater Manchester. Before the vote it was a rare splash of Tory blue on the council map around the UK’s cities, but thanks to Labour picking up four seats – and the Green’s two – it is now under no overall control.
Another big plus for Labour was victory in Plymouth, thanks to all three Ukip seats going red, as well as one Tory ward.
As expected, Dan Jarvis was comfortably elected South Yorkshire mayor.
But losing overall control of Derby and Nuneaton & Bedworth left a sour taste in the mouth of many Labour activists.
Asked by Sky News if the results showed the country was past the point of “peak Corbyn”, the Labour leader replied: “No” adding it was going to get “even better” for the party.
Despite losing Plymouth and Trafford, it was by no means a disastrous night for the Conservatives. As well as Barnet, the party picked up Basildon, Peterborough and Redditch councils. Having been in power for eight years, and against a backdrop of the Windrush scandal and Brexit turmoil, the Tories will be happy they only suffered a net loss of one council.
But the lack of growth in the UK’s urban areas, together with the BBC’s projected general election result, will remind those at the top of the Tory party they still have much to do secure a majority in 2022.
Despite claiming before the elections the vote was about who empties your bins, not directs Brexit, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson claimed national politics did have an impact on the results:
The sheen was taken off the reclaiming of Pendle council after the Tories reinstated a councillor who had been suspended for sharing a racist joke on Facebook.
Lib Dem Fightback
With the Tories and Labour cancelling each other out, the Liberal Democrats can lay claim to be the big winners in the vote. The party made a net gain of 62 seats – although that is compared to the disastrous 2014 election results – and picked up four councils: Richmond-upon-Thames, Kingston-upon-Thames, South Cambridgeshire and Three Rivers.
As Lib Dem MP Layla Moran said: “It’s quite nice as a Lib Dem to wake up after an election and not feel sad.”
Ukip’s ‘Black Death’
While there can be debate over emerged as the winner, it is pretty clear which party was the loser. Ukip shed 123 councillors, leaving it with just three seats out of all those up for grabs. The capitulation seemed to do something strange to Ukip’s General Secretary Paul Oakley, who compared his party to the “Black Death” in the wake of the almost total collapse.
“Think of the Black Death in the Middle Ages. It comes along and it causes disruption and then it goes dormant, and that’s exactly what we are going to do. Our time isn’t finished because Brexit is being betrayed,” he told BBC Radio 4 on Friday morning.
Asked whether it was a good comparison to make, he said: “Absolutely. What’s wrong with that?”