Labour victory in the local elections: A preview of what’s to come?

Peter Cardwell, Senior Counsel

Rishi Sunak would like us to believe that the local election outcome does not make Labour winning the General Election a foregone conclusion.  That is wishful thinking from the Prime Minister, who is relying on leading psephologist Professor Michael Thrasher’s analysis which ignores any possible change in Scotland.  Plainly, with Labour ahead of the SNP for the first time since the 2014 referendum and on course to have around 25 seats, it is clear a Labour majority government is the most likely outcome.

The simple fact is the local elections were a disaster for the Conservatives and a very, very good set of results for Labour.  Even consternation from some over Labour’s stance on Gaza caused only a small number of councillors to defect, stand down or stand as independents, for example in Oldham, with George Galloway’s Workers’ Party having only four councillors elected.  Sir Keir Starmer is already softening his line on Gaza, with events in Rafah providing the backdrop for this shift in tone in recent days.

With 10 of 11 metro mayors Labour candidates, Keir Starmer can justifiably say his strategy across England is working.  Even the small amount of consolation that the Conservatives will take from the re-election of Lord (Ben) Houchen in Tees Valley is tinged with a 17% swing to Labour, which should ensure Labour’s General Election candidates in the region are all elected.  One I spoke to in recent days made clear it was not expected that Labour would take that mayoralty, but that the swing was the cause of behind-the-scenes jubilation.

The Prime Minister and those who are sent out on media rounds, such as Transport Secretary Mark Harper at the weekend, keep repeating that ‘we have a plan, and the plan is working’ and that may well be their belief.  But the fact is the public does not agree.  Even in Aldershot, the home of the army, the announced rise in military spending to 2.5% of GDP did not prevent Thurrock council switching to Labour.  Rwanda flights, welfare reform, even the prospect of the UK coming out of recession and lower interest rates by the end of this week – none of it is shifting the dial for the Conservative Party.  The Government is in terminal decline and there really is nothing Rishi Sunak can do to arrest that. 

Despite this, the moves to unseat Sunak seem to have melted away, though the prospect of a fifth Conservative leader in five years was never really a strong one.  The shadowy group working against Sunak was never particularly strong or had the prospect of being lethal enough.  One Conservative MP told me recently he was fed up getting calls from the same two MPs, and one prominent former MP, replaying the criticisms of Sunak that he had ‘stabbed Boris Johnson in the back’ and had since been a bad Prime Minister, and should therefore go.  The MP told me he wanted nothing to do with any plot, accepting in the same phone call to me that he would almost certainly be losing his seat at the General Election.

As a government-in-waiting, the scrutiny of Labour is about to increase.  Worries about Angela Rayner’s living arrangements bubble away, with the investigation by Greater Manchester Police continuing.  A misstep by Wes Streeting in a particularly poisonous tweet about the Conservatives’ candidate for London Mayor, Susan Hall, was noted by many, but won’t have any real long-term effect. 

The fact is there is no real threat to Keir Starmer’s leadership and he and his top team – not least Rachel Reeves – are continually cautious, running the clock down to 14th November, the date on which I believe the General Election will be.  As things stand – and a lot can happen in six months, but still – the only real question outstanding is how big Labour’s majority will be as Keir Starmer enters Downing Street as Prime Minister.

We’ve cultivated an environment that harbours independence. Whether they are early birds who go to yoga and then smash their news updates before 8.30am, or they simply hate travelling on the tube in rush hour, we trust and respect our team’s skills and conscientiousness. As long as core responsibilities are covered, our team is free to work flexibly.

We’re proud to be a living wage employer. We believe that no one should have to choose between financial stability and doing a job they love, so we pay a wage that allows our team to save for a rainy day and guarantees a good quality of life.

Many members of the Atticus Partners team hold the Communications Management Standard (CMS). CMS demonstrates a commitment to achieving excellence and assures our clients that we are providing the most effective service possible.

Sign up to receive the Atticus Agenda

Sign Up Here