As everyone expected, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats were largely humiliated in Thursday’s local council elections across England, Scotland and Wales, and Labour made huge gains.
With all 181 councils having declared their results, Labour had taken over 32, to control 75 in total, while the Tories were down to 42, having lost 12. With 4863 council seats declared, Labour had gained 824, and had 2159 in total, the Tories had lost 403 and had 1006 in total, and the Lib Dems had lost 329, and had 438 in total.
The only good news, from a Tory point of view, was that Boris Johnson narrowly held onto London for a second term as Mayor, beating Ken Livingstone, but it is also clear that, to win, Johnson had to stand apart from his colleagues in central government, and his success can only make David Cameron look worse rather than better. Personally, I find that disappointing, as Ken offered to help hard-working Londoners by cutting fares, whereas Boris offered nothing more than his usual stand-up routine, but whether through his own failings, or through a media that was extraordinarily biased against him, Ken appeared to have no chance of winning whatsoever, and he should, therefore, take comfort from the fact that so many people actually voted decisively against the Tories and almost brought him victory. It was also significant that Jenny Jones, for the Green party, beat the Lib Dems and the hapless Brian Paddick into fourth place.
Excepting the London Mayoral victory, the elections have been a disaster for the Tories, and the results countrywide have been a disaster for the Lib Dems, but across the UK there is no real sense of triumph as far as I can tell (outside of Labour political circles), and the most depressing statistic to take from the elections is the sad truth that only a third of those who were eligible to vote actually bothered to do so.
Satisfying though it is to see David Cameron and his cruel, misguided party get an electoral drubbing (along with their Lib Dem stooges), we still have to wait for another three years, apparently, to vote these butchers out of Parliament, and in the meantime Labour has yet to establish itself as a left-of-centre phoenix with a true vision about how to rebuild Britain, rather than bleeding it to death as the coalition has been doing for the last two years.
Given the drubbing the Tories received, I doubt that hearing David Cameron bleat on about the endless need for austerity will have done anything to turn the tide of disdain that has been engulfing the government since its disastrous budget first led to a widespread and accurate perception that, as well as being arrogant handout of touch, the Tories are also incompetent.
After sympathising with the Conservative councillors who had lost their seats, David Cameron tried to insist, “These are difficult times, and there aren’t easy answers. What we have to do is to take difficult decisions to deal with the debt, the deficit and the broken economy that we inherited. We’ll go on making those decisions because we’ve got to do the right thing for our country.”
The “right thing,” as many people are now realising, would be to admit that the government’s austerity plan is killing the country, and not stimulating any sort of growth. Instead, the Prime Minister’s robotic instance that, as Margaret Thatcher would have said, the government is “not for turning,” just sounds stupidly stubborn, and the following statement is simply meaningless. According to Cameron, it remains the government’s job to “do everything to demonstrate we are on the side of people that work hard and do the right thing for themselves and their families — that’s who we are fighting for, that’s who we must govern for.”
If he really wants to be “on the side of people that work hard,” the best thing would be for everyone concerned to pull the plug on this failed government, and to call a general election.
About the author: Andy Worthington
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to his RSS feed (he can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see his definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in January 2010, and, if you appreciate his work, feel free to make a donation.