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3 May 2024updated 04 May 2024 5:44pm

This is not normal

Labour’s gains show the Conservatives face something far worse than a normal-sized general election defeat.

By Ben Walker

At the same time, Tory mayor Ben Houchen has held Tees Valley despite a landslide-level swing of 16.7 per cent to Labour, a testament to personality politics playing a greater role than ever.

Across local councils, the situation is telling. This is the best barometer for the state of public opinion in the absence of a general election. Labour scored early blood, winning Hartlepool council off the Conservatives (the same seat it lost in a by-election three years ago). In Grimsby, Keir Starmer’s also enjoyed widespread gains unlike last year. 

In the more traditional battlegrounds between Labour and the Conservatives, Labour won big, sweeping up Redditch, Thurrock and, most strikingly of all, Rushmoor, a council held by the Tories for the last 24 years and the home of the British Army. Tamworth was a clean-sweep for Labour, a demonstration that the party’s by-election victory in 2023 was more than merely Tory “mid-term blues”. 

The Lib Dems are eviscerating the Conservatives in more rural areas and are entrenching themselves in North Hertfordshire and Surrey ahead of the general election. The Greens are making advances in safe Labour areas such as Norwich and Newcastle, spelling further trouble once Starmer’s party enters government. 

I reiterate, these local election results are not normal. The country is increasingly on a general election footing. More and more Britons are paying attention to the fact they will soon cast their verdict on the government. The proportion of those who are undecided is shrinking – and yet Labour’s lead is not.

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