Neither major party has anything to celebrate following the results of the first major political election since last June.
The story today has been about a disappointing result for Labour. The Party had been raising expectations in recent weeks, with its ambitions to take Barnet, Wandsworth, Kensington and Chelsea, and even Westminster; yet in the end Labour gained none of these. Ambitions of turning the capital red would have been the changing of the tides that Corbyn needed to show his party that – finally – the public were on-board with his vision for the country and he was on the march to Number 10. It didn’t happen.
This gave the Conservatives an opportunity to laud holding councils as “victories”, while concealing its own disappointing performance. It wasn’t a story of Conservative success. Theresa May and the Conservative leadership will be breathing a sigh of relief – the momentum behind Windrush and Amber Rudd’s departure from the Home Office could have gutted their support in some areas, particularly in the capital.
Perhaps the only solace for the major parties is the collapse of the UKIP vote, which has benefitted both major parties, flattering their otherwise meagre results.
Neither party leader will find succour from these election results, but neither are they bad enough to warrant a serious challenge their positions. The signal from the electorate appears to be that they don’t want a change, at least not yet.
But it would seem that Brexit is still dominating and stagnating voting intention. The Conservatives have gained support, mainly from areas that voted to leave the EU. According to professor Sir John Curtice and others, the Conservative vote is up by 13 points where more than 60% backed Leave – largely because of UKIP’s collapse. However, they note that the Conservatives have dropped by one point in areas where less than 45% voted Leave. Theresa May’s on-going battles over Brexit continue.
Indeed, leadership and fractures within the two main parties are likely to be the concern of many voters. Neither May nor Corbyn have a firm grip on their party, with attempts to undermine their leadership at every turn. But for business, the message is that the status quo remains with no sign of immediate change.
By Kenneth Pritchard