May 19, 2022, 10:51

    ‘Local elections left country confused as Boris Johnson’s future remains unclear’ – Keir Mudie

    ‘Local elections left country confused as Boris Johnson’s future remains unclear’ – Keir Mudie

    “It was,” said one Tory backbencher, “less bad than we thought.”

    I like that. Favourite thing to come out of these local elections. Less bad.

    I might start using that when I’m breaking terrible news to people.

    As analysis goes, it’s two days after the event and I’m still not entirely sure what happened, what any of it means.

    At this point, to be frank, you would be better off with one of those characters from Ancient Babylon that divined the will of the gods by cutting open a sheep and studying the entrails.

    Haruspex, I believe. It would certainly liven up Newsnight.

    Boris Johnson's Conservative Party has seen losses in the election
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    Image:
    Getty Images)

    “So what happened at the local elections?”

    “Well, Kirsty,” (strangled bleating, thud, squelching sounds) “it looks like the Lib Dems came off best.”

    There’s no such thing as crystal-clear analysis at the moment from anywhere.

    It feels like everyone in Westminster is guessing, and the games of spin carried out by the main parties are getting more and more elaborate.

    With these elections, the waters were muddied by all the “expectation management” in the run-up.

    Expectation management, according to the Westminster glossary I carry around, is a fancy way of saying “total bullsh**”.

    Keir Starmer has seen gains in the local elections
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    Image:
    REUTERS)

    Labour downplayed how well they were going to do, the Tories overplayed how badly they were going to do. The Lib Dems were cautiously optimistic.

    In the end, they were probably the only ones telling the truth.

    I guess Labour did better than they said, the Tories better than they said they were going to do.

    The Tories lost some London councils, but London turning to Labour is not entirely unexpected.

    Why it’s less bad for Mr Johnson is the lack of damage done in the red wall, which looks like it’s holding.

    Having said that, it’s not necessarily the red wall where the trouble is. The blue wall is getting some hammer.

    There was significant Lib Dem progress in taking seats off Tories where Mr Davey’s lot were in second place. That is worrying the Tories.

    As I write, all the numbers show there’s no clear path to power for the Tories or Labour next time around. It is going to be a mess for some time.

    Two candidates wearing rosettes of the Conservative party at the count at the Westminster City Council
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    Image:
    REUTERS)

    Attritional politics, with Labour willing the Tories to mess up, and the Tories letting Labour punch themselves out.

    Rope-a-dope politics that goes all the way to the 12th round.

    Anyway. On to Wakefield. The plotters on the Tory backbenches are keeping their powder dry until then. Tricky for the Tories, but winnable.

    More pressing is the Sue Gray report which has been coming any day now for a long time.

    If Mr Johnson makes it through that, there is a growing cost of-living crisis, conference season, inflation going to 10%, a new energy crisis, war and then Christmas.

    British Labour Party candidates and supporters celebrate after the Labour gain of Westminster City Council
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    Image:
    REUTERS)

    Surely he can’t survive, although I’ve been saying that since this time last year. I tell you, forecasting is a mug’s game.

    The bookies reckon he can, drifting out as we speak to a decent price to keep going beyond 2023 – 2024 even.

    Worse news, Jeremy Hunt’s odds are shortening, but Liz Truss is still favourite to take over. All we need. Liz Truss to take over.

    The absolute, total, dictionary definition of less bad.

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