4 May 2012

Labour on the march? Or Tories staying at home?

Look at the detailed figures for council elections in England and a pattern emerges that should temper Labour’s excitement. Look at the absolute numbers of votes cast in councils like Bury, Reading, Dudley, Southampton, Harlow, where Labour’s made serious gains in council seats and a pattern emerges. Turnout is down quite substantially from last year’s locals, from around 40 per cent to somewhere between 30-33 per cent.

In every council I’ve looked at you find that for every 10 people that voted Labour in 2011 council elections, about eight or nine voted Labour yesterday. But for every 10 that voted Tory in 2011 only six did the same thing again yesterday.

This all suggests that Labour isn’t converting ex-Tory voters in great numbers but that 2010 and 2011 Tory voters are staying at home. Ed Balls seemed close to saying that a moment ago on BBC Vote 2012. One Labour MP close to Ed Miliband told me he hadn’t met converts on the doorstep and that the party is “nowhere near” being in a winning position.

From rolling tally on London Elects website it looks like Boris Johnson is safely re-elected … also looks like the Lib Dems will struggle to hold on to 3rd place, maybe even not make it to 4th place. The big story here though will be what does Boris’ victory mean for the Tories. In Tory MPs’ away-days David Cameron (speaking through his polling man, Andrew Cooper) has consistently tried to put out a message: back the man who polls better than the party. That used to mean “Back David” but by the end of today, and with the PM’s own personal poll ratings on the slide, some will think that means “Back Boris.”

What does “Backing Boris” mean when Boris’ agenda is a maverick, unpredictable thing? Tory MPs will take whatever lessons best suit their purposes. Plenty will say it proves if you’re stridently Euro-sceptic you do better. Just how much Londoners voted with Europe on their mind when they voted for Boris is not something that will trouble them.

And Europe is coming back to haunt David Cameron. UKIP didn’t stand in that many seats but where they did they tended to get 13 pr cent. That’s on a smaller turnout and only standing where they think they have some strength. But dozens of Tory MPs will sweat looking at those figures, thinking that UKIP could make the difference in their constituency in the general election.

Follow @GaryGibbonBlog on Twitter.

Tweets by @garygibbonc4