Local elections 2022: Why the Conservatives are bruised, but still standing

The Conservatives have come out of the local elections bruised, but still standing on a day that provided more questions than answers.

Boris Johnson’s party suffered losses, but remained competitive, with the worst results seen in Scotland and London.

Despite a cost-of-living crisis and the ongoing furore over Partygate, the losses were bad, but not catastrophic enough for the Prime Minister to be in immediate danger.

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His party suffered the most in London, the south and Scotland, of which the latter is no surprise given his general fear of visiting.

However, Labour did not do as well in the north, failing to make great inroads back into the red wall.

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Tory spinners have pointed to this as a failure, while the party’s chairman Oliver Dowden said it showed Labour were not in a position to win the next election.

That this is the new bar of success for the Labour party speaks volumes about just how bad the results were for the Tories, who are refusing to recognise defeat as bad, actually.

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Labour’s success in the UK capital has already been derided by Tory MPs as proof Sir Keir Starmer’s party is for Remainers and the middle class, which fundamentally misunderstands the scale of the issue.

Mr Johnson’s success at the 2019 election was he could carry voters in the north and south, something the Prime Minister no longer seems able to do.

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Tories are right to think Labour should have done better, but make no mistake, the Conservatives are in real trouble.

As for the Labour perspective, the mood is buoyant, or as buoyant as they could be before the news dropped about Sir Keir being investigated by Durham police over ‘Beergate’.

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For them, these elections were not about a sweeping win or landing a knockout blow, it’s slowly showing Labour are once again a force to be reckoned with.

Taking councils such as Westminster, which has never been Labour, Wandsworth, which is a low tax stronghold, or Barnet, with its big Jewish population, are hugely symbolic victories.

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These are areas that should not be in play, but slowly and surely Labour are starting to win again.

Now the Tory vote seems to have collapsed more than the Labour vote has grown, but a win is a win, and twice on Sundays.

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Sir Keir can frame this as a ringing endorsement of his leadership and claim his approach is working.

These results are not a disaster or a triumph for either of the two main Westminster parties, they are the continuation of a trend that has yet to become a breakthrough.

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Speaking to Tory MPs on Friday, they were exhausted, annoyed, but not quite ready to stick their head above the parapet and call for Mr Johnson to go.

Labour figures were content with the results, delighted with the gains and somewhat ignoring the areas they’re failing to reach.

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It’s worth noting if these results were replicated at a general election, the Tories would be the biggest party, but 48 seats short of an overall majority in a hung Parliament.

Conservatives can say they would still win, Labour can claim they’re competitive and ready to take over.

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It’s all a matter of perspective, but these results show government is now a possibility for both.

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