Cities versus the country, Ukip's collapse, and the weird question of expectations management...by Stephanie Boland / May 4, 2018 / Leave a comment
An interesting night; but in many ways, one that leaves us in the same place as before.
Local elections are an imperfect indicator of potential general election success, but broadly, the two main parties have the same problem they had in 2017.
Labour have, by and large, been successful in the cities and the Tories in small towns. The former took control of Plymouth and denied the Tories overall control in Trafford. But they also lost control of Derby, while the Tories took control of places like Peterborough and Basildon.
Labour’s failure to win Westminster and Wandsworth is being called, depending on who you ask, a vicious indictment of Momentum’s politics, a sign Labour has hit its ceiling in London, or an extremely unsurprising result given that the two seats were never that likely to turn red anyway.
This last interpretation is the most sensible, and the reason that others—in light of the number of Labour activist figures who have been Tweeting about “unseating” the Tories there—are calling this and other Labour results a failure of expectations management. Yet this is not quite true either.
For Momentum, the focus in the run-up to the council elections was not on expectations management at all. Posts about the unseat campaign weren’t aimed at the general public, nor indeed at political commentators, but at mobilising a young left-wing ground game. In this light, they were very successful.
Whether or not you think expectations management is valuable is, of course, another question. It’s always a good idea to get your activists out; but so is trying to ensure they’re not depressed by the results. The fact some activists are now Tweeting about the national party’s failure to manage expectations shows they expected Labour to cover the bigger picture… or, at least, now wish they had.
For a masterclass in that, you only need look to the Tory campaign—helped, as Tim Montgomerie points out, by genuine failures on Windrush and cancer screening.
Given the expectations for the Tory campaign, the fact the party held on to the seats they did in London and other major cities, and deepened their hold on small towns, is being hailed as a triumph.