Council elections: Labour's back but ditching Boris Johnson could see Tories bounce back under a latter-day John Major – Brian Wilson

I woke yesterday to news that Wandsworth and Westminster councils had fallen to Labour. That really was a blast for the past since, through the Thatcher-Major years, these were always referred to as the “flagship” Tory councils, bastions outside the enemy’s reach.

The wider message from England is that Labour is back as an alternative party of government. There are no certainties and the hard work of maintaining and improving upon that status lies ahead. It takes a long time to fall so far and even longer to recover – 18 years last time round.

Now as then, Labour’s prospects are greatly aided by the failures and mishaps of a Tory government. However, these alone will not deliver power any more than they would have in 1997. Keir Starmer and his team, which now contains a lot of able people, will have to demonstrate credibility rather than rely on the Tories to self-destruct.

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John Major addresses an audience-in-the-round at Sawtry village community centre in Cambridgeshire ahead of the Conservatives' victory in the 1992 general election (Picture: Michael Stephens/PA)

Whether the results are sufficiently bad for Boris Johnson to precipitate his departure remains to be seen. Possibly the biggest danger to Labour would lie in a “new” Tory Prime Minister emerging and the impression of a change of government. We saw what that led to in 1992 with John Major.

All these considerations will directly impact on what happens in Scotland where Labour’s fortunes at the next General Election will be closely tied to whether or not there is a real chance of winning. At that point, voters would have to decide whether to support a potential government – or a certain opposition.

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