We expected Theresa May to have a terrible night nationally and she has for once delivered. Labour’s expectations were different, when the polls closed John McDonnell told LBC: “I am aiming for sort of about 400” seat gains. At the time of going to pixel Labour have actually lost seats on the night. Coverage of the local elections has yet to focus attention on the dreadful Labour performance in the West Midlands. This is the place where swing marginals will make the difference to whether or not Labour forms a government.
This analysis sent to Guido by a Labour staffer summarises the situation:
We went backwards in Stoke-on-Trent, Walsall, Dudley. Places where Labour needs to make serious gains to win a General Election. Why isn’t any of the coverage showing this?
The elections were seen as the test of brand new West Midlands Labour Regional Director Fadel Takrouri, parachuted in by the Labour leadership last year. The Corbyn-backed Regional Director kicked off his tenure by appointing several new Corbyn ‘community organisers’ to shore up his staff team. There’s rumours of pay-offs amongst staff from the previous administration, with those who remained having mounted some kind of grievance process against the new Regional Director’s shambolic tenure.
The results speak for themselves.
- In Stoke-on-Trent the council remains in no overall control – a place where Diane Abbott launched our Local Elections campaign. I’ll let you surmise how that went down.
- In Walsall, Labour lost in straight Tory-Labour fights without a Green, Lib Dem, or UKIP making it a clear cut loss. Regional office opted for an attack campaign, rather than defence, consistently pushing the line that Corbynism will attract the truest of blue voters. It didn’t. As a result, the ward of the Leader of the Labour Group lost a councillor… hardly a vote of confidence.
- In Dudley, former Labour stronghold wards went Tory, with many Labour heartlands a handful of votes away from turning into Tory wards. On the night there were many comments about how staffing resource from the regional office had been sent to no-hoper wards across the West Midlands where – unsurprisingly – Momentum-backed candidates were standing.
The truth is Corbyn’s name is still poison the doorsteps in our working class heartlands, and Brexit betrayal is only compounding the narrative of our party as one for the few in metropolitan Southern seats, not the many across the country who voted leave.
Corbyn’s failure to make significant progress in these local elections, in the ninth year of Tory government, is extraordinary given that the Tories are divided and on the verge of ousting their leader. Poison on the doorstep…