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Local elections 2023: A ‘hammering’ for the Tories, but Labour majority at general election by no means certain | Politics News

The Conservatives have lost a third of their council seats so far – a hammering by any standard.

If that trend continues, the party is likely to post a final tally that rivals the debacle of 1995 that left them limping towards a massacre at the general election two years later.

These results are terrible for the Conservatives, but does that mean that Sir Keir Starmer is about to do a Tony Blair? There is clear evidence in places like Plymouth and Stoke-on-Trent where the party has put its recent troubles behind it and taken council control.

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‘Not great for us’ – Conservatives concede defeat in Medway

Gaining Medway for the first time, a council that Labour could not win in 1997, is a notable coup for the party and one which it will rightly publicise. It will also celebrate the rise in vote share in Rushmoor, where it even surpassed the 1995 figure. This is all evidence of Labour passing the test it’s been set.

Politics Hub: Follow the local election results and reaction live

But there are other results, Hartlepool, Lincoln, Tamworth and elsewhere, where Labour’s progress falls short of a general election-winning performance. Even where it has done well, like Plymouth, the increase in vote share, though large, is not large enough for an overall majority at the next general election.

This last sentence might be read by Labour supporters with incredulity. But the electoral arithmetic that lies behind the next parliamentary election is that the national swing from the Conservatives required for a Labour victory is greater than the party achieved in its 1997 landslide. This is because Labour posted one of its worst-ever general election performances in December 2019, and its recovery from that must be spectacular.

More on Local Elections 2023

The tally of seat gains and losses shows that Conservative misery has been inflicted by Labour in some areas, but elsewhere the Liberal Democrats have made headlines in West Lindsey and Windsor and Maidenhead. As more results are declared later today, especially across parts of southern England, Lib Dems gains will increase.

Sharing the limelight is not ideal for Labour, particularly because it raises an awkward question. If Labour has done enough on this showing to overtake the Conservatives as the largest party in a hung parliament will it form a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats?

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