Proof that local election results mean nothing for the fate of Labour

Jeremy Corbyn
Support us and go ad-free

Political commentators of all stripes are pointing to the local election results to claim their view is widely represented in public opinion. As it stands at the time of writing, the Conservatives have lost roughly 1,000 councillors and Labour around 100, while the Lib Dems, Greens, and ‘Others’ have made significant gains.

But where it really counts, council elections mean little. Because they don’t determine the fate of Labour and other parties in a general election.


Take the 2017 local elections, for example, where the Conservatives gained 563 seats and Labour lost 382:

After the results, the media was awash with criticism of Corbyn and people calling for him to resign.

Yet only a month later, the UK went to the polls in the 2017 general election. And Theresa May lost her majority, while Labour increased its vote share by more than at any point since 1945.

One reason is that local elections typically have a low turnout. And the 2019 edition is expected to be even worse, with as little as a third of the electorate voting. This suggests local election results are a very skewed measure of overall public opinion.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Another reason is that, unlike a general election, council ones do not take place across Britain. In 2019, candidates are only contesting around 72% of English local authorities, and 11 councils in Northern Ireland.

But even if you estimate how parties would have done if the poll took place throughout the UK, the results are still way off. In 2017, the Commons Library took such an estimate (the ‘national equivalent’ share of the vote) and compared it with the general election results:

Labour received 13% more of the vote in the general election than the projection; even though the general election happened only a month later.

Political class is going to town anyway

These facts seem to matter little to many commentators, who are seizing on the 2019 results to advance their personal views:

And Sky‘s political correspondent Lewis Goodall claimed:

ITV‘s political editor Robert Peston, meanwhile, announced that Labour losses are the real story:

Much more significant is that Labour too is losing seats. And even though the attrition is much less than for the Conservatives, Labour should not be losing any councillors against a floundering government mid-way through a parliamentary term

But it’s clear that local election results mean little when it comes to projecting a general election outcome. So ignore the pundits using the results to advance their views. Because that’s what much of the commentary amounts to.

Featured image via BBC Newsnight/ YouTube

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us