Election entrail-readings

Britain had mid-term elections on Thursday. Some in the media used the horrible Americanism “Super Thursday” to describe the combination of elections for the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the election for the Mayor of London, local government elections throughout England, and a couple of parliamentary byelections thrown in for good measure.

It was a mixed night for the Liberal Democrats; modest gains in the English council elections and just about holding on in Scotland, but very poor results in London and in Wales. One extrapolation of the results into a possible parliament puts the party on 19 seats, an improvement on the eight in the current parliament, but a long was from the 57 of the last one.  It’s a small step on a very long road to recovery.

It was just as mixed for Labour, with Sadiq Khan roundly defeating the disgusting dog-whistle racism of Zak Goldsmith in London, but at the same time the Scottish Tories have come back from the dead and pushed them into third place in Scotland. Scotland now has very different politics to England, and what was once the dominant party is facing a third-party squeeze. Scotland may be heading towards a two-party system, and Labour won’t be one of them. That has huge implications for British politics as a while.

Writing in Politics.co.uk, Ian Dunt minces no words, and says the zombie result is worst possible outcome for Labour.

So this week’s elections might just be the worst possible result for the party. There’s enough there for Corbyn supporters to pretend everything’s fine and that arguments to the contrary are a product of media conspiracy, but not so much that they might, you know, actually win a general election.

Dunt thinks Labour are dead, but like Zombies, they don’t know it yet.

Meanwhile Jonathan Calder asks why via Labour did surprisingly well in the south of England, and talks of his expreriences campaigning in Richmond & Barnes in the 1983 general election.

On the last weekend of the contest the young activists (this was a long time ago) were sent out to call on the Labour supporters identified in our canvass and ask them to consider a tactical vote for the Liberals.

This approach received two distinct reactions. Working class voters were generally happy to consider the idea, even if they had a Labour posters in their window.

Middle-class Labour voters, typically teachers, however, were often offended to be asked. You had to vote for what you believed, they told me, even if your candidate had no chance of winning.

It is this second group of voters, I suspect, that Jeremy Corbyn appeals to. Which means that he may well be surprisingly successful in maintaining his party’s Southern outposts.

But it also means that he may struggle to resist the appeal of Ukip to working-class Labour voters.

And speaking of UKIP. reports of their death appear to have been premature. Seven seats in the Welsh Assembly and second places in both byelections suggest that their rightwing populism is going to be around as long as nobody else is willing to address the concerns of the traditional working-class vote. More ominously, the odious BNP came within a whisker of winning a council seat in Pendle, Lancashire, which went to the Tories with Labour a distant third.

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