Brits finally ready to shrug off the shackles of Labour socialism
Tory victory at next general election 'likely'
By Stephen Fisher
Last Updated: 11:43PM BST 02/05/2008
Labour did so badly and the Conservatives so well in the local elections that comparable historical benchmarks are practically exhausted.
David Cameron and Boris Johnson
The Conservatives have dealt Labour a heavy blow
With only 24 per cent in the BBC projected national share of the vote, Labour suffered their lowest share since this kind of exercise in the early 1980s.
Not only has Gordon Brown done worse than Michael Foot, but you need to go back to the late 1960s to find a result that looks worse for Labour.
The Conservative share, at 44 per cent, is its greatest for the last quarter century, excepting 1992, when the conjunction of the local and general elections gave the Tory local share a substantial boost.
So do these results herald a Conservative victory at the next election?
Comparison with the 1990s suggests yes.
The Labour share this year is marginally lower than the worst result the Conservatives ever suffered under John Major.
In terms of the relative standing of the two major parties, this year looks like the reverse of 1995, when the then new Labour leader, Tony Blair, achieved a projected national share of the vote of 46 per cent and the Tories a dismal 25 per cent.
That result was followed by a similar one in the 1996 local elections and a Labour landslide in the general election.
But the link between local and general election performance is far from straightforward.
After all, Labour’s 2004 local election share of 26 was, as this year, comfortably its worst since records began, and yet they went on win the 2005 election with a comfortable majority.
The key difference between then and now is that the Tories then were much weaker, with only 38 per cent of the 2004 local vote share, whereas now they are much stronger in both local election performance and the opinion polls.
Moreover, unlike in some recent local elections, the Conservative’s advances were not confined to their heartlands.
Labour were fortunate indeed to win a general election on 36 per cent of the vote, and it is unlikely to happen again in face of rejuvenated Tory party.
The Liberal Democrats consistently do about 10 percentage points better in their local election share compared with their general election or poll performance, but they tend to rise and fall together.
This year marks a continued steady decline since their local election share of the vote since the record high of 29 per cent in both 2003 and 2004. This dropped to 27 per cent in 2006, 26 per cent in 2007, and 25 per cent this year.
This is not the only sign that electoral consequences of the Iraq war might be fading. Wards with high proportions of Muslims, which swung heavily away from the government in 2003 and 2004, seem to be returning to Labour.
If, alternatively, the decline in the Liberal Democrat’s share of the vote is due to the quality of its leaders, by doing worse than Ming Campbell, this year’s result is not good for Nick Clegg.
His saving grace is that, by offsetting loses to the Tories with gains from Labour, his party experienced little net change in the number of their councils or councillors.
Stephen Fisher is a lecturer in political sociology at the University of Oxford
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Finally, it looks like a return to goverment with some sense.
"All my life I've had to fight. It's just another fight I'm going to have to learn how to win, that's all. I'm just going to have to keep smiling."