“We’re winning in London, we’re winning North and South,” Starmer declares

Elliot Chappell
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Keir Starmer is having a very good morning. And the Labour leader is right to be happy. The local elections have seen some pretty big Tory beasts fall to Labour. Wandsworth, Westminster and Barnet all turned red overnight in a humiliating round of London local elections for Boris Johnson. Elsewhere, Labour won the inaugural election in the first of two new unitary authorities in Cumbria and took back control of Southampton – although it did also lose control of Kingston-Upon-Hull to the Lib Dems.

Labour set out early what it wants people to focus on: Anneliese Dodds said, just as polls closed, that the party “never expected big gains” but results “will show the progress we have made under Keir’s leadership”. Translation: Labour would prefer that people compare the results we are seeing emerge now to the 2019 general election, rather than the 2018 locals (the last time these set of seats were up for election). Labour campaign coordinator and MP Shabana Mahmood hammered home the key takeaways Labour wants to leave people with, telling Sky News viewers this morning that the results should be seen against the context of a “near-death experience” in the 2019 election.

Dodds close-of-poll comment was obviously an exercise in expectation management. And this is logical in any election, especially since the party is coming off a high baseline in 2018. Half of the English councils with elections yesterday, remember, were already controlled by Labour. And, in those authorities electing by thirds (around 31%), the third of seats where Labour had previously won most of the seats is the third up for election. Some Starmer critics are less keen on the methodology, however. A Momentum source reacted to say that “the benchmark for the latest set of local elections should be… the last set of these local elections”.

But the approach is also a punt at showing that Starmer is winning back those ‘Red Wall’ seats lost in 2019, a key test of his leadership. The party said this morning that it has gained 16 Leave-voting general election seats based on aggregate vote share: Carlisle, Copeland, Great Grimsby, Hartlepool, Ipswich, Leigh, Lincoln, Peterborough, Stevenage, Thurrock, West Bromwich East, West Bromwich West, Wolverhampton North East, Wolverhampton South West, Worcester and Workington. A very chipper Starmer said: “We have turned a massive corner in the Labour Party here. We’re winning in London, we’re winning North and South – we’ve won in Cumberland, we’ve won in Southampton, we’ve got more results to come.”

He’s not wrong. There are lots more results to come. Whether they will go Labour’s way is, of course, yet to be seen. We have several key councils in England that are yet to announce (Somerset and Newcastle-under-Lyme are ones to watch, as is Worthing – which Katie visited shortly before the vote). And ballots are being counted for councils in Wales and Scotland today – as are the votes in the Northern Ireland assembly election. Our liveblog is continuing – stay tuned for more.

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