Friday, May 04, 2007

UK Local/Regional Election Results

Labour lose seats to the various nationalist parties everywhere: SNP in Scotland; Plaid Cymru in Wales and the Conservatives in England.

Alternatively, compared to the share of the vote in last year's local election results: Labour are up (by 1% to 27%); the Tories stay the same (at 40%); and the Lib Dems are down (1% to 26%).

What does it all mean?

Well, it's a mid-term election, so it potentially means nothing. Governing parties often do badly in mid-term local elections but go on to win subsequent general elections - but not always, so you just don't know.

Gordon Brown could take the view that it's a mid-term, low turn-out poll and those disgruntled Labour supporters who voted SNP or Plaid Cymru are likely to revert to Labour come the General Election, particularly as they didn't vote Tory. He can also be quietly confident that the Tory challenge has been fairly muted as they barely reached the 40% mark in their share of the vote. Labour did worse in the 2004 local elections but still won in 2005 ...and Brown can still jettison many unpopular 'Blair' policies before then and get in a tax cut.

David Cameron can take the view that the Tories did really well, especially considering that they haven't even outlined any policies yet. He can point to the fact that Tony Blair hasn't quite resigned yet and this has hindered his ability to really target Gordon Brown, and he can paint a rosy picture where a revitalised Tory party full of new policy initiatives will make Brown look old and lack-lustre - especially if more of Labour's chickens come home to roost (like cash for honours).

The rosy scenario for the SNP is that they are about to form a Scottish administration as a stepping stone on the path to Scottish independence - the gloomy view would be that they've peaked, many of the people who voted for them don't want independence, so they have to risk losing their support if they push for independence; also, watch out for the anti-independence press looking for skeletons in the SNP's cupboards or producing doom-laden analyses of the prospects for an independent Scotland.

I suspect that it's in the interests of Labour, Lib Dems and Tories a like, if the SNP try to govern as a minority administration in Scotland, they can watch the SNP vote erode as they struggle to actually run Scotland. Of course, the fact that they are even in the position to consider being a minority administration is fairly momentous - although Alex Salmond may regret banging on about all those spoilt ballot papers, he's got the most to lose!

As for the Lib Dems, if they're struggling to capitalise on Labour's mid-term woes, now then how badly will they do in the General Election? This could be quite significant if their voters start to fragment in different directions.

No comments: