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Labour Predicted To Win Next General Election Based On Local Election Results

Pollsters predict Keir Starmer's Labour is on track for a large majority at the next general election. (Alamy)

6 min read

Pollsters and elections experts believe the Conservative hammering in the local elections results indicate Labour is on track for success at the next general election.

With votes still being counted across England, by Friday afternoon Labour and the Liberal Democrats had both made significant gains from the Conservatives. In a number of cases, where the governing party hadn't lost councils to their political rivals, councils fell to No Overall Control. 

The Tories admit it was a "tough night" for the party, and opposition parties have been celebrating following their successes. 

This set of elections has been the first large electoral test for Rishi Sunak since he became Prime Minister, and could be one of the final large-scale votes before the next General Election, which is expected to take place in the autumn of 2024. 

Damian Lyons Lowe, founder and chief executive of pollster Survation, told PoliticsHome local election results so far are in line with national polling – which consistently points to an extremely large parliamentary Labour majority come the election.

"We had a Westminster poll, and that had a 17 point Labour lead over the Conservatives – which, if you put most recent Scotland polling figures into that, you'd get a Labour majority of 224," Lyons Lowe said. 

"I think that these results would strengthen the argument that it's more likely that there is a large Labour overall majority. We haven't really seen anything that is particularly different to what opinion polls are saying."

Lyons Lowe believed one of the key driving factors of the Tory party's woes was that despite strong personal polling for Sunak, the Conservative brand "is very damaged" by a string of controversies and scandals over the last 18 months. These include Boris Johnson's involvement in partygate – which led to exit from No.10, shortlived prime minister Liz Truss' economic antics, and allegations of corruption and bullying. 

"Rishi Sunak's kind of trapped. His approval is boxed in by the low approval of the government that he leads – and the party that he represents," he continued. 

He also felt the cost of living issue had been one of the key reasons voters had turned away from the Tory party. 

"What is possibly different about these this set of local elections is that almost everybody in the country – even people who who would be thought thought to be pretty wealthy – are feeling economically squeezed," he added. 

Political research director at Savanta, Chris Hopkins, also told PoliticsHome the results were in line with national polling so far, but noted it has been "a good, if not excellent, night for Labour so far". 

A recent Savanta poll of 2,241 UK adults between 28-30 April found 44 per cent of people reported they intend to vote Labour in a general election, with 31 per cent intending to vote Conservative.

Like Lyons Lowe, Hopkins said voters were still disillusioned with the Tories, despite Sunak's efforts to detoxify his party's brand. 

"I can't help but think how much worse it could have been if Rishi Sunak had not managed to steady the ship a little bit," Hopkins said.

"There's so little at the minute that Rishi Sunak can do because the Conservative brand is so tarnished," Hopkins added. 

"He's still a Conservative. He's still wearing a blue rosette and I just don't think that voters are going to trust the brand – no matter what he does – unless he significantly can turn the economy around in the next 12 to 18 months."

Labour is not the only source of the government's woes. Patrick English, Associate Director, YouGov noted that the Liberal Democrats were "pushing Conservatives hard" in the battleground areas around London, the south east, and the east of England. 

“They're losing out to Labour, particularly in the North and the Midlands and in a lot more Leave voting areas, and then in the Remain voting suburban affluent South they're losing out heavily to the Liberal Democrats," English told PoliticsHome

While the Lib Dems historically do particularly well in local elections, head of social and political research at Opinion Adam Drummond felt wins for the vocally anti-Brexit party demonstrated that people had moved away from an anti-EU narrative, and that tactical voting could be at play

The Lib Dems made notable gains in territories where senior Tories, including a Cabinet minister and former prime minister are MP, indicating they could continue to make gains in the so-called ‘Blue Wall’ in the south of England.

“It’s interesting that they have held on, which suggests [a return to] 90s style, anti-Tory tactical voting," Drummond explained.

“The Lib Dems are now sort of seen by anti-Conservative voters as back in the fold again.”

Hopkins also observed that the Lib Dems are “contributing significantly to the bad night for the Conservative Party,” which if repeated in a general election context could give a leg-up to Labour. 

Lyons Lowe believed a significant amount of tactical voting in some areas which had seen Liberal Democrat gains which may have eaten into Labour's vote share, which also bruised the Tories. 

"There appears to be a very, very intelligent electorate that is tactically voting against the Conservatives which I'd be very worried about if I was a Conservative strategist," he said. 

Hopkins and Lyons Lowe said the reduction in the focus on Brexit has also been why Labour has managed to make serious ground in UKIP voting areas like Medway, where they took the council from the Tories, and in the north east. 

"The importance of Brexit as a voting issue has gone way down on many types of voters lists," Lyons Lowe said.

"I think that's why you're seeing that Lib Dems will vote Labour because they're not so disgusted by Labour's Brexit position, and then two thirds of UKIP voters in the north east voting for Labour rather than Conservatives."

While this week's results seem to suggest a Labour victory at the next election is likely, it remains far from certain that they could deliver a giant majority, or even a government that doesn't require the support of another party. 

Professor Michael Thrasher, a Sky News election analyst, has said while the results indicate Labour is on track to be the largest party at the next election it does not indicate they will have a majority. 

"Based on the analysis of change in vote share across 900 wards, the eventual Conservative share is projected to lie between 28-30%, while for Labour the range is 36-38%," Thrasher said.

"The Liberal Democrats, making steady seat gains, are projected to win 18-20% share. The share for others has the largest spread – 16-19%.

"Assuming a uniform national swing, these vote shares and applying them to the seats decided at the last general election suggest that Labour is on course to become the largest party at the next election but falling short of winning an outright majority."

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