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But this year, unlike different last, Cameron’s Tories also faced a tidal wave of anger losing one in three of their councillors up for election. These, more than 400, losses were geographically spread across the country. From Carlisle to Southampton the drubbing handed out to the Tories was painful for anyone looking in from Downing Street.
The parties of austerity have begun to be held to account for the damage they are doing to our society, and as reflected in France and across Europe people are looking for the opportunity not simply to protest but for something genuinely different.
Labour gained 824 councillors and well surpassed any meagre expectations set down before the election, and they were well past the line set down by the Tories themselves.
Gaining control of 32 councils was also a major step forward for the party. From Carlisle, Derby, North East Lincolnshire, Southampton, Reading, Nuneaton, Cannock Chase, to the big prize of Birmingham the night was full of major swings to Labour.
In Southampton, Labour hoped to take control, but winning 10 seats was a major victory. Candidates who never expected to win were woken up and came to the count winning seats that gave Labour outright control. Labour trounces the Tories was the only headline from Southampton.
In Birmingham, Labour hoped to take control but winning half of all the seats up for election, and securing a 34 seat majority was a huge victory.
In my own Borough of Basingstoke Labour made 3 gains, but it was the manner of the wins that speaks to the way the coalition lost on Thursday. We won our target seat against the Tories and the Lib Dem vote utterly collapsed by some 70%. In our two Lib Dem target wards we won with a dramatic and historic 259% increase and 381% increase in the Labour vote. We didn’t just beat the Lib Dems, we annihilated them.
The story of the night was one of Labour gains all over the country, so in preparation for any general election the actual results, so much more than the national share of the vote, is important for the morale boost and the overall picture of the night. It is the gains in activists and momentum in key marginal areas that is impressive.
It is far more important to reflect on the geography of the wins, along the M62 corridor from Liverpool to Manchester, along the M40 from Birmingham to London and along the south coast from Southampton to Hastings. In key marginal areas of the country Tory MPs will be looking over their shoulders, and the Lib Dems will need Valium because they face wipe-out. That deal with devil is going to exact a heavy price, and it already has, when will the Lib Dems realise that they are nothing short of an ablative shield for the Tories and they are quite simply being blown away.
The Lib Dems have ceased to be a national party. They have been wiped out in the northern cities and are nothing short of a rump and this is alongside the Tories who have lost all of their gains in the north. Labour has utterly re-established their dominance in their northern heartlands and made inroads into the Tory south. Wales swung decisively back to Labour and Ken Livingstone pushed Boris far harder and closer than anyone expected, and all but two cities that had referendums on having a Mayor rejected the idea of more Boris’s which was embarrassing for a flagship Cameron policy.
The commentary so far from the Tories following the election results has been that people just didn’t hear the message and the Austerity Plan must go on, in essence we just aren’t getting enough of the Tories medicine. It is a foolish politician who chooses to ignore the real message of these elections, being repeated in France and Greece over the weekend. You can only push people so far, and Nadine Dorries cutting criticism of Cameron and Osborne as posh boys who are out of touch with people is an uncomfortable truth.
The funniest moment of the night, and what probably best symbolises the election, has to be Professor Pongoo, the independent dressed as a penguin, who beat the Lib Dems in Edinburgh. I think it might be a yellow parrot that is more of an endangered species.
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