If I were David Cameron I would be sorely tempted to start planning now for any early election. Friday’s election results were a dream ticket for the Tories. They must have thought they had woken up in paradise. They managed to rout their coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, on their core issue, electoral reform and get the electorate to blame them for the coalition’s broken promises. They destroyed much of the Liberal Democrats core base in Tory heartlands. They actually GAINED council seats and councils when they were already by far the largest party in local government.
In Wales, – Labour did brilliantly in South Wales – but the Tories are now in second place , having regained Mid Wales to add to Pembrokeshire and North Wales. The only thing that marred the party was Alex Salmond’s spectacular win in Scotland, but there they can take comfort to see Labour stalled ( Labour’s vote held up but they lost seats because people turned to the Nationalists and not them).
Only in the North where Labour’s stellar performance did a similar demolition job on the Liberal Democrats ( some of the swings in Newcastle at 22 per cent were equivalent to old style Lib Dem by-election gains) were the Tories not in the picture.
While Labour’s 800 gains look respectable effectively they piled up votes in Liverpool , York Humberside, the North East, and the East Midlands. The victories in the South, Gravesham and Ipswich, were isolated. They failed to get back Dover, lost seats to the Tories in Dartford and Hemel Hempstead and failed to make a serious impact in Watford, Thurrock and Harlow. Gloucester, a bell weather election seat, saw its council go Tory.
If there was an election tomorrow Ed Miliband would get the Labour vote up but in many cases it would just increase existing Labour majorities or take Lib Dem seats. And that will not be enough to win. The Tories with more Lib Dem seats to gain already have an advantage, let alone their simple but wrong narrative that the cuts are all the fault of Labour. So while Ed’s strategy to get back disillusioned Lib Dems has been a good start, it is only a start.
The party needs to do two things. Find out what the Tory’s new-found friends in the South and Midlands really want from government and the issues where the Tories are really vulnerable. Labour will not win by only talking to itself. Ask why there was success in Gravesham but not Dartford.
Labour need to up their game and go on the offensive. Polite pussy footing around and sympathy will not win elections. Unless they take the Tory narrative head on and work out an alternative and believable narrative of their own they will get nowhere.
If they don’t do this they will be written out of the script. They needn’t just use conventional media – which is slowly dying – to get their message across, they have the whole internet at their disposal and it’s free.
So get your act together, Ed. A new nose job is not enough to get you through the door at Downing Street.