Should Labour be doing better in elections?
By Joe Harker
Just about a year ago Labour under Jeremy Corbyn looked dead in the water and Theresa May's Tories were on course for a landslide victory at the general election.
Now the Tories have lost their majority and have 1,000 fewer councilors than the opposition after the results of the local elections. Despite this the result is being framed as a disappointment for both sides, but more so for Labour.
Despite what looks like a good result, the argument against Labour insists that they should be doing even better. This was their chance to really stick it to the Tories and take important councils from them, making a statement on the way the balance of power has shifted in once staunchly blue areas.
Instead, Theresa May is writing columns in The Sun about Labour not learning from their past failures. She wrote that voters "rejected what was on offer from Labour", though if that is the case then they weren't at all enamoured with the ideas of the Conservatives.
Both parties got 35 per cent of the vote though Labour has 1,018 more councillors than their foes, gaining 79 at the election while the Tories lost 35 despite gobbling up the UKIP vote. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister is taking the chance to crow about a good result and act like her party won.
Regardless of the result the winner often comes down to which party is happy and which one has to come up with reasons for the outcome. The Tories got more seats than Labour at the general election but it was seen as a victory for Corbyn and a disaster for May, this time the reverse is true.
Before the local elections Stephen Bush wrote for the New Statesman about Labour losing the spin war. He predicted that the party would take key councils from the Tories in London but argued that they had allowed their best case scenario to be defined as the requirements for a good result.
Bush's prediction on the election results was not accurate, but he was right about losing the spin war. Labour is seen as having failed to take key targets in an election they should have stormed, therefore they are more disappointed than the Tories. This election became about them taking key councils from the Tories in London, which would have been a decisive victory. By losing the spin war they allowed the context for the election to be decided for them, framing their best possible performance as the requirement for victory.
Still, that is not to say that Labour should be ecstatic about their performance. They really did have a strong chance of doing much better in the local elections. Owen Jones of The Guardian believes complacency is the enemy, warning against overconfidence from the party. It caused them problems at the local elections and it will come back to hurt them again if they allow others to determine the context of future elections.