Chris Mason: Whopping swing to Labour will alarm Tories

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By Chris Mason
Political editor

Good morning. First things first, it’s early days.

When there’s a general election, we are used to waking up on Friday morning and knowing the result.

That’s far from the case in this patchwork of local and regional elections.

There are shedloads of results still to come later today, throughout tomorrow and beyond.

But here’s what we can tease out so far.

The Conservatives are having a very, very rough time. They have lost around half of the seats they are defending.

If this rate of loss continues across all the seats being fought, it would be in line with their worst performance in a set of local elections when looked at as a proportion of their seats lost – which was back in 1995.

And we know what happened two years later in 1997 – they lost the general election by a landslide.

These are the kind of numbers that will well and truly give Conservative MPs the heebie-jeebies.

Labour are talking up the importance of geography as well as numbers in terms of their gains.

On the excitement-ometer, Labour folk got particularly excited at about 3am when they took control of Rushmoor Council in Hampshire.

Why the excitement about this one? Well, it’s a council they have never held before and it includes the military town of Aldershot.

Sir Keir Starmer has tried to convince voters his party can be trusted over defence and Labour sources point to this result as evidence that it’s working.

‘Seismic’

“I can’t think of a bigger example of voters seeing us as a changed party,” a senior Labour source texted me.

And Labour smiles broadened further when the result of the Blackpool South by-election was announced just before 5am.

The turnout was limited, but the swing to Labour was whopping.

Little wonder a quote from Sir Keir appeared within seconds – describing it as “seismic” and “the most important result today”.

Reform UK came within a whisker of beating the Conservatives on the Lancashire coast, and have performed strongly where they have put up candidates in local and police and crime commissioner contests – albeit in areas where they would expect to do well.

A couple of other early observations:

Labour are taking a hit in places with a significant proportion of Muslim voters, where there appears to be evidence of a negative reaction to Labour’s approach to the Israel-Gaza conflict.

The Liberal Democrats reckon they are gaining sufficient ground to be able to be confident of making gains at the Conservatives’ expense at the general election.

And the Green Party are doing well again. Their vote share has been growing in local elections for the last decade and appears to be growing further.

So, in summary, so far it’s looking bleak for the Conservatives and buoyant for Labour.

But remember: two thirds of the councils with elections yesterday have not yet started counting.

Nor have the mayoral contests or many of the police and crime commissioner races.

It’s going to be a long weekend. And not just because there’s a bank holiday on Monday.

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