02 May 2008

This is why I don't blog on London politics

The one shining light for Brown is that Ken Livingstone is likely to be re-elected as London's Mayor, thus denting David Cameron's credibility for a little while.

That was me on the 1st of January.

Oops.

Still, I'm stunned at just how many Councillors Labour have lost in the English and Welsh local elections - 331?! That's obvious bad reading, especially when you try to look at the wider picture.

But looking at that wider picture, I'm going to ignore the BBC projected vote as I view it as a massive red herring - you can't project a vote like that and pontificate on how Westminster would look like when Scotland didn't vote, when many Councils didn't hold elections, and those that did weren't necessarily holding them across the Council area, or holding them to elect the entire Council. Many (including the Council ward I'm currently in) were elected by thirds.

And even if you do, surely it's better to project an election result not on a straight analysis of the projected percentages, but by comparing them to the 2004 poll, analysing the change in vote, and applying that to a Westminster Election? That would put the Tories ahead on 38%, and Labour on 33%. The LibDems would end up on 18%. According to Electoral Calculus (I know, I know, not ideal but it's there and it's quick), this would lead to a Hung Parliament with Labour as the largest party by ten seats. Sadly for the SNP, Labour wouldn't be close enough to a majority, and the SNP group wouldn't be large enough, for Angus Robertson's group to tip the balance.

What I'm trying to say is that the biggest problem for Labour for tonight is the loss of key activists in the form of those 331 lost Councillors. The actual change in votes is not, when compared against these Council seats were up for election (and incumbent Councillors were last on a ballot paper), a total disaster for the party, nor is it a harbinger of utter electoral apocalypse. But it is a warning: no recovery means no majority; continued decline means Labour will be out of government. Simple as.

The problem is, looking at the reaction of Labour politicians over the past 24 hours, they are split between three camps: the first is a continued assertion that New Labour is working and the party can't change tack now (isn't the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result each time?); the second is panic and despair; the third, and seemingly most popular in the upper echelons of the party appears to be a bizarre mish-mash of the first two.

So the message to Tory candidates in England, and indeed SNP candidates in Scotland, is simple: progress is probable, and victory is possible, but neither is certain. And they won't be certain until they have happened. That won't be until 2010.