The Irish Times view on British local elections: A drubbing for Johnson

Consensus is that Johnson fared badly on Thursday, with Tories losing over 480 seats

Despite a consensus on the impossibility of extrapolating local elections into reliable predictions for a general election, the temptation has again proved irresistible in postmortems on the English, Scottish and Welsh local elections. The general trends are clear, and they are not promising for British prime minister Boris Johnson.

Keir Starmer, in leading his party to some 260-plus council seat gains, has yet to inspire the public despite its disillusionment with Johnson

BBC projections suggest that if the whole of Britain had been voting in Thursday's local elections, Labour would have secured 35 per cent of the vote, the Conservatives 30 per cent, the reviving Liberal Democrats 19 per cent, and others 16 per cent. That would see a Tory loss of over 100 Commons seats and a hung parliament – good news for Labour, but not good enough.

Keir Starmer, in leading his party to some 260-plus council seat gains, has yet to inspire the public despite its disillusionment with Johnson. The election was an open goal but Labour’s attack was lacklustre, except in London, now a Labour heartland. And Starmer now also faces a police inquiry into a beer he had in Durham during lockdown.

The consensus is that Johnson got a drubbing on Thursday, with the Tories losing over 480 seats. Their Scottish leader, consigned to a third place in Scotland behind Labour, bluntly blamed Johnson: the public sent a clear message, he said, that "they are not happy with the prime minister, they are not happy with partygate". The Tory leadership spoke of "pain" and a difficult election.

The party seems to have withstood Labour’s attempt to recapture its northern “red wall” constituencies, lost over Brexit and still apparently sweet on Johnson’s brand of populism, although “levelling up” is spoken of little these days.

The Scottish National Party consolidated with further gains its total dominance of politics north of the border. This was a remarkable 11th consecutive victory for the party which has now been in power continuously at Holyrood for 15 years. Labour also saw a significant revival in Scotland after years in the doldrums. Again, good if not good enough.

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