Labour was the clear winner in yesterday’s local elections in England and Wales – and shared the spoils with the SNP in Scotland. Voters punished the coalition, whose performance this year has been abject. (Economy back in recession; a budget that took money from pensioners and gave it to the rich; three hour queues at Heathrow; the list goes on…)
It’s easy to explain away Labour’s good showing as the classic opposition gain from a government’s mid-term blues. But the Conservatives and Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats would be unwise to assume they’ll bounce back in the polls as the next general election nears. Spending cuts and state job costs have barely started.
The Liberal Democrats are in the bleakest position. As I wrote on the original Ertblog early in 2011, they have played their hand disastrously in government:
Above all, the Lib Dem leaders seem far too comfortable in their ministerial limos and offices, and far too little concerned about the catastrophic rush to slash and burn public services.
The happiest man in British politics tonight must be Ed Milliband (with Alex Salmond a close second). He’s faced constant criticism and sniping since beating his brother David in 2010’s leadership election. Praise for his stand against the Murdoch empire last year faded. But in recent months his fortunes are reviving. David Cameron is looking more like John Major at his most beleaguered than Tony Blair in his pomp. There’s no guarantee chat Milliband will be Britain’s next prime minister. But the idea no longer seems outlandish.