UK Elections: Huge Labour Gains, Huge Tory and Lib Dem Losses, Boris Holds London, But Also Sweeping Apathy

4.5.12

As everyone expected, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats were largely humiliated in Thursday’s local council elections across England, Scotland and Wales, and Labour made huge gains.

With all 181 councils having declared their results, Labour had taken over 32, to control 75 in total, while the Tories were down to 42, having lost 12. With 4863 council seats declared, Labour had gained 824, and had 2159 in total, the Tories had lost 403 and had 1006 in total, and the Lib Dems had lost 329, and had 438 in total.

The only good news, from a Tory point of view, was that Boris Johnson narrowly held onto London for a second term as Mayor, beating Ken Livingstone, but it is also clear that, to win, Johnson had to stand apart from his colleagues in central government, and his success can only make David Cameron look worse rather than better. Personally, I find that disappointing, as Ken offered to help hard-working Londoners by cutting fares, whereas Boris offered nothing more than his usual stand-up routine, but whether through his own failings, or through a media that was extraordinarily biased against him, Ken appeared to have no chance of winning whatsoever, and he should, therefore, take comfort from the fact that so many people actually voted decisively against the Tories and almost brought him victory. It was also significant that Jenny Jones, for the Green party, beat the Lib Dems and the hapless Brian Paddick into fourth place.

Excepting the London Mayoral victory, the elections have been a disaster for the Tories, and the results countrywide have been a disaster for the Lib Dems, but across the UK there is no real sense of triumph as far as I can tell (outside of Labour political circles), and the most depressing statistic to take from the elections is the sad truth that only a third of those who were eligible to vote actually bothered to do so.

Satisfying though it is to see David Cameron and his cruel, misguided party get an electoral drubbing (along with their Lib Dem stooges), we still have to wait for another three years, apparently, to vote these butchers out of Parliament, and in the meantime Labour has yet to establish itself as a left-of-centre phoenix with a true vision about how to rebuild Britain, rather than bleeding it to death as the coalition has been doing for the last two years.

Given the drubbing the Tories received, I doubt that hearing David Cameron bleat on about the endless need for austerity will have done anything to turn the tide of disdain that has been engulfing the government since its disastrous budget first led to a widespread and accurate perception that, as well as being arrogant handout of touch, the Tories are also incompetent.

After sympathising with the Conservative councillors who had lost their seats, David Cameron tried to insist, “These are difficult times, and there aren’t easy answers. What we have to do is to take difficult decisions to deal with the debt, the deficit and the broken economy that we inherited. We’ll go on making those decisions because we’ve got to do the right thing for our country.”

The “right thing,” as many people are now realising, would be to admit that the government’s austerity plan is killing the country, and not stimulating any sort of growth. Instead, the Prime Minister’s robotic instance that, as Margaret Thatcher would have said, the government is “not for turning,” just sounds stupidly stubborn, and the following statement is simply meaningless. According to Cameron, it remains the government’s job to “do everything to demonstrate we are on the side of people that work hard and do the right thing for themselves and their families — that’s who we are fighting for, that’s who we must govern for.”

If he really wants to be “on the side of people that work hard,” the best thing would be for everyone concerned to pull the plug on this failed government, and to call a general election.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

11 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Sue Katz wrote:

    Thanks for this Andy. I was hoping to find some intelligent commentary on the UK elections.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Elena Landriscina wrote:

    I second Sue’s comment. Thank you, Andy.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    You’re welcome, Sue and Elena. I just wish the misery for David Cameron had been even more complete. I know that no love is lost between Cameron and Boris Johnson, and that Boris’s victory only makes Cameron’s failures more obvious, but Boris is still very much a Tory, as wedded to privilege and privatisation as the government, and it’s depressing that enough Londoners once more decided that a clown was better than a serious candidate, and, in many cases, either didn’t care about politics, or actively thought that Ken, who promised to give something back to everyone, was a worse bet than Boris, who offered nothing, but presumably represented “a safe pair of hands for business.” It’s as if the “business” of the City of London hadn’t got us into this mess in the first place, and it’s a dismal sign of the self-interest and greed that afflicts London, to be honest …

  4. tashi says...

    Thanks for this Andy

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    You’re welcome, of course. I’m rather sad about what’s happened in London, to be honest, where image narrowly won out over substance, even though it ought to have been obvious that, out of Ken and Boris, only Ken had actually thought about how – or cared about how – to help London survive the crushing pressures of this idiotic government – on transport, on housing, on jobs. The battle for dignity will have to be driven at a local level, although there is perhaps some hope that, with 12 of the 25 GLA seats now in Labour’s hands, they might be able to make a difference if they work with the Greens, who have two seats (the Tories have nine, and the Lib Dems two).
    For a good analysis of the situation in London, see Dave Hill in the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/may/04/boris-johnson-mayor-ken-livingstone

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    A key passage from Dave Hill’s article:

    Johnson’s first-term record, closely monitored by a handful of journalists and independent bloggers, reveals little inclination to tackle the deeper structural, environmental and social impediments to London’s long-term progression as an efficient, generous, capitalist metropolis. Road-traffic congestion, over-priced public transport, poor air quality, a chronic and corrosive accommodation crisis and a frightening, sometimes criminal, disaffection among many of London’s young have gone unchallenged to the point of neglect.

    And from another article by Dave Hill – http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/davehillblog/2012/may/05/boris-johnson-win-but-london-loses

    Ken Livingstone’s defeat, so painfully narrow, is a blow for the simple reasons I wanted him to win: much better transport and housing policies; a superior approach to dealing with serious youth violence; a more coherent and creative sense of London’s future development; a greater appetite for the core business of the job; a gut desire to oppose the damage Conservative policies are doing to London. Seems reasonable enough, but not to be.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Dejanka Bryant wrote:

    Working class decided not to take part in these elections, either local or for the mayor of London. Both parties should hold their heads in shame. Watching Milliband so excited about their victory left me even more depressed. They DO comprehend that 2/3 of voters did not turn up to vote for any of them, but tried desperately to cover up the truth using our mainstream media. Yet another shameful example of how they treat Britain as a country full of uneducated and, especially, politically uneducated people. When I talked to my husband this morning he only answered one of my many questions. When I asked how it is possible to treat their own people like that, knowing they died here and in the USA for our rights he said, “Because they still live in that world when we were indeed poor. We, people of Britain, only got educated at the end of the 19th century. It’s about the power structure. They still want us to believe to their lies, as it was at that time.” They bring those excessive fees to our Universities to keep us far away from being educated. Your children included.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Dejanka, for pointing out some of the uncomfortable truths that the politicians have been trying to avoid. What upsets me is that there was a time when there were people in politics with ideas about how to make society a better place, but now, as your husband says, we’re back to square one – sometime in the 19th century, from the way things are going.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Dejanka Bryant wrote:

    Yes, imagine Open University, among 6 top Universities in this country, with their extraordinary courses designed for poorly educated to highly educated students in all fields of education, available to everyone, just everyone in this country, with their affordable fees that you can pay in instalments throughout your studies, even after Labour took power and introduced their Uni fees. Still, those lacking any kind of education were encouraged by OU to improve their skills significantly, to get out of the drags of their everyday jobs. Go now and see what is the fee of their single course. I was astonished when I found out that my Maths course that cost only £450.00 two years ago went to an astonishing £2500.00. It’s only one module, Andy. Keep us and our children far from educational institutions. Disgrace!

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Sue Katz wrote:

    Oh my gawd, Dejanka! That is gut-wrenching news.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    It is indeed, but it’s on a par with everything else that’s happening to university education, Sue. It makes my blood boil when I think about what future awaits our children, Dejanka, and it’s why it’s so depressing that so few people are doing anything about it. Politics now involves our supposed leaders doing whatever they want, and then everyone adapting, almost immediately, with barely a murmur of dissent.
    Wake up and fight back, please, people! Our leaders do not have our best interests at heart …

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