Hard night for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour across the UK

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell with young Labour activists. Picture: Getty Images
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell with young Labour activists. Picture: Getty Images
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Labour suffered a difficult night in English local elections although the party avoided the worst of the collapse it saw north of the Border.

With results in from around 70 of England’s 124 local councils, Jeremy Corbyn’s party held all but one of their councils, despite losing 30 seats.

In Wales, Labour’s Carwyn Jones looked set to remain First Minister, but may need a deal with Plaid Cymru or the Liberal Democrats to secure his position.

With 45 million people eligible to vote across the UK yesterday, the elections were seen as the first nationwide verdict on Mr Corbyn’s leadership.

On the eve of polling, Labour retreated from comments its leader made in the final days of the campaign that the party was on course for gains in the local authority elections.

And though it held on to council strongholds like Sunderland and Newcastle-upon-Tyne and the bellwether authority Nuneaton, and improved its vote share to hold Sheffield Brightside in a Westminster by-election, there were early signs that Labour was heading for a reduced tally of councillors across England.

There were signs that the recent row over anti-Semitism may be hitting the party.

Meanwhile, shadow cabinet minister Andy Burnham revealed he was considering running for mayor of Greater Manchester, in an apparent sign that pessimism about Labour’s prospects of regaining power at Westminster reaches high in the party.

Leading party figures sought to manage down expectations, shadow chancellor John McDonnell saying Labour’s objective was to narrow the 6.3 per cent advantage enjoyed by the Conservatives in last year’s general election, before making “steady progress” towards victory in 2020.

And deputy leader Tom Watson urged Labour activists and MPs to “respect the mandate” given to Mr Corbyn by members and supporters last year, and suggested that it was too early in his tenure to expect him to be chalking up significant electoral advances.

“I think most people would recognise you can’t consolidate your position in only eight months,” Mr Watson said.

Labour’s next hope for a significant advance may not come until this evening, when Sadiq Khan is expected to take back City Hall in London.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage said his party was “biting hard” into the Labour vote, as it aimed for its first representation on the Welsh Assembly and won council seats in Thurrock, Tamworth and Bolton.

In Wales, Labour ruled out a pact with the Tories or Ukip, but will consider working with Plaid or the Lib Dems.