Local Elections, and the State of Play thereafter.
Local elections are such a yawn. Most people don’t even know they’re going on, or who their councillor is, or what councillors even do. To be totally honest, I’m not really sure what they do either. And I’m sort of friends with one.
The only time local elections are ever vaguely significant or interesting is when they feed into a bigger picture and this year that happens to be the case.
Here are a few things to watch for:
Great Expectations – A classic political ploy. Political parties – usually the one in government – will talk up their opponents’ chances of success. The Tories, for example, have set the bar at an unattainably high level (1000 council seats), so even if Labour do make significant gains, the government will nonetheless argue that Labour hasn’t done as well as it should have. It’s a stupid game, and one that’s easy to spot if you’re looking for it, but most people aren’t looking.
The point here is that whoever is able to spin their numbers the best in the post mortem will be able to gain an upper hand on the media narrative for a couple of weeks, and maybe even a bit of momentum. Cameron in particular would love a chance to shine the spotlight on Labour’s inadequacies for just enough time for him to catch a breather.
Clash of the Buffoon and the Sleazebag, and Glasgow. In the interest of full-disclosure, I should declare that I lean to the left – not in a self-righteous, hypocritical, Polly Toynbee kind of way – but in a manner that is entirely appropriate for a coddled, middle class History student. Yet, regardless of this, I cannot stand Ken Livingstone. My stomach churns at the very thought of him; you just sense he isn’t a good guy. What’s worse is that I quite like Boris. I mean, if you’re going to be a Tory, at least be honest about it. Heart on the sleeve, “authenticity is the gateway to trust” (Revelations: 7;12) and all that.
The outcome of the London Mayoral election, in isolation, is not immediately important. (Although a Boris victory does place him well for a run at the top job when Cameron steps down, but that debate is for another day…)
If Boris wins – which I predict he will – he buys the Tories some good headlines for a while and Labour’s gains will get undermined a little. But that’s not a nightmare scenario for Ed Milliband. Ken is not really part of the Labour establishment, and if he loses he certainly won’t drag Ed down with him. The let-up for the Government will be temporary, and Labour will return to calling for Jeremy Hunt’s head, particularly if their gains across the country turn out to be stronger than expected.
What Labour’s elite are seriously concerned about however, is Boris winning in London and Labour losing control of Glasgow, a traditional stronghold for the party. Glasgow is being viewed as a test of Milliband’s political strength, and if he falls short he could be in real trouble, especially considering the broadly unsympathetic right-wing media.