Support 100 years of independent journalism.

Do the local elections mark a turning point for Labour?

Keir Starmer’s party has made unprecedented gains in London but the picture elsewhere in the country is more mixed.

By Freddie Hayward

Labour has stormed through London in the local elections as a mixed picture develops across the rest of the country.

Keir Starmer’s party has taken the totemic London councils of Wandsworth, Barnet and Westminster. This is a big deal: Wandsworth has been Conservative since 1978 and Westminster has been Conservative since its creation in 1964. Labour figures will also be reassured by the win in Barnet as it indicates that the party has the support of the area’s large Jewish population.

The symbolic importance of these victories will help shape the narrative in Labour’s favour but the story across the rest of the country is more opaque. As I wrote yesterday, the fact these seats were last contested in 2018 means that Labour has a high watermark. This means the question isn’t whether Labour “wins back” seats in the Red Wall because in 2018 it hadn’t yet lost the Red Wall. Therefore, it would be notable to simply hold onto their seats in certain places. In Hartlepool – the place of their famous by-election loss last year – they’ve done just that. In Cumberland, where there are three Tory MPs, Labour have won the council with 30 seats compared to the Tories seven. But in places such as Sunderland and Nuneaton their performance has been much less impressive. It’s also worth watching for Labour’s share of the vote. If Labour comes out on top, it will be the first time that’s happened since the Brexit referendum.

This is not yet a roaring success for Labour. Whether it does mark a “turning point”, as Labour figures are claiming this morning, will become clearer as the day goes on.

For the Conservatives, their collapse in London undermines the precarious electoral coalition that Boris Johnson cobbled together in 2019. The loss of Westminster is a significant blow, and the strong performance of the Liberal Democrats and Greens will be unnerving for Tory MPs. Expect calls from Tory MPs for the government to pay more attention to the south to grow louder.

Results will continue to come in from across England this morning and a clearer picture will arise. But most eyes will turn to Wales, Scotland and, in particular, the significant results in Northern Ireland where Sinn Féin is expected to become the largest party, which would stoke unease among unionists and deepen the inertia of Northern Ireland’s government.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Content from our partners
How do we secure the hybrid office?
How materials innovation can help achieve net zero and level-up the UK
Fantastic mental well-being strategies and where to find them