Labour spinners have been telling gullible hacks with drink addled memories that the result from the last time these local election seats were up in 2018 was a “high watermark”, that they are starting from a “high point” this time round and thus can’t be expected to make significant gains. Does that claim stand up to scrutiny?
Guido thought he remembered it differently, having now checked the data, in the 2018 local elections, Labour made a feeble net gain of… 46 councillors.
What’s more, the front page headlines for the next day read “MPs call for inquest as Corbyn fails election test”, with anonymous Labour frontbenchers at the time queuing up to lambast the disappointing performance. One called it “amateur hour”, another said “At this stage of the parliament… the opposition should be doing much, much better. Our campaign was woeful” while another blamed the “inexperience and hubris” of Corbyn’s team. Guido wonders if Starmer was one of those frontbenchers anonymously briefing against the “dire” results?
The FT reported under the headline “Labour fails to make big gains in England local elections” that it was a “setback for Jeremy Corbyn” and a “major disappointment”. that it was a “high watermark”. The Guardian opined after the result that the Labour Party needed to show some “humility”. Jess Phillips summed it up by saying “The Labour Party has to look at the results, have a really honest strategy about it to improve it, a real hard honest look at itself.” Hardly sounds like it was the high watermark result we are now being spun by Southside Labour HQ.
Guido’s been round long enough to have seen plenty of expectation management over the years, this really stretches the bounds of credulity. Now the party’s worried it won’t make the inroads it hoped, suddenly those “dire” 2018 results are an impossibly high benchmark set by the great Corbyn, who doesn’t even have the party’s whip anymore. At this point in the electoral cycle Tony Blair’s Labour Party gained 1,807 council seats..
UPDATE: Someone who was there in the thick of it, makes a similar point from a different direction:
Labour expectation management update: it’ll be a “struggle” to beat the result in 2018 when these elections were last contested….. a time when Labour was led by someone we’re simultaneously told was so toxic he and his fellow travellers must now be expunged from public life— Matt Zarb-Cousin (@mattzarb) May 5, 2022