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The general election can't come soon enough

Voting behaviour varied wildly from one place to the next, but there's one thing that was constant: the feeling that the sooner Rishi Sunak goes to the people, the better. Our National and North editors offer their view on the results. 

May 04 2024, 14.24pm


The  view from London

Jittery progressives traumatised by going to sleep with Remain and waking up to Leave, or going to bed with a Clinton victory and waking up to the Donald can relax. As this editorial comes out, the London results are still arriving, but the trend could not be clearer. Despite the low turnout, despite the disinformation, despite the overt racism, despite an actual bombing campaign and despite Tory staffers astroturfing some of the most repugnant anti-Khan social media groups - Susan Hall has lost.  Sadiq Khan will remain the Mayor of London for at least four years more.  

And if the odious Rwanda legislative push was meant to fire up the Tory base ahead of the local elections, that failed, too. If anything, the swing went the other way, with Labour's majority looks set to increase almost everywhere across the capital.

With any luck, the next four years will be radically different to Khan's previous two terms. After almost a decade of shoring up London as a progressive, pro-immigration, pro-diversity, pro-LGBTQ stronghold against the excesses of populist Tory governments, Khan can look forward to working with a cooperative Labour one - a relationship that can benefit both London and every other city in the UK.

Still, these elections contain a darker hint about the future, too. The Tories' deplorable swing against green policies started with the unexpected efficiency of the anti-ULEZ campaign in Uxbridge and South Ruislip byelection last year. But the populist, conspiracy-mongering can of worms this has unleashed is far too dynamic to be reversed by the anti-ULEZ campaign failing in London. Anti-environmentalism, racism, violence and unabashed disinformation: what we've seen around the Hall campaign is what we'll be seeing from the Tory opposition to a Starmer government.

And there is another lesson here, too. Starmer's Labour has often tried to walk the extra mile towards the Conservative electorate. The London swing to Labour suggests this needn't alway be the case. On some issues, even when faced with certain levels of vitriol, progressives can and should be able to double down. The voters will come to them.  

(Dimi Reider) 

The view from the North

Local elections are often seen as lightning rods for national issues - but from the variety of elections we've covered in the last 48 hours there have been random strikes going off all over the place.

From Ben Houchen's personality-driven campaign leading to a triumph in the Tees Valley (essentially forgetting he was a Conservative in his acceptance speech), to the Gaza conflict becoming a deciding factor in individual wards in Bolton, through to an enormous swing to Labour in a two-horse race margin in the Blackpool South by-election (and Reform nearly clambering their way into the second-position saddle). One thing's for certain - there's no certainty.

Trying to claim there's even a pattern across 'the North' is speaking gibberish. Politics has become both hyperlocal and global even in the space of a few wards.

I spent Friday at the Preston City Council election count, on the western side of the city an enormous row over plans to build a new sports hub on a city park triggered a cabinet member to lose in what is traditionally a safe Labour seat.

While there were hundreds of spoiled ballots across many of the city's higher Muslim population wards - with 'CEASEFIRE NOW' written across them - and Labour politicians mopping their brow at no independent candidates having stood on a pro-Gaza ticket in comparison to what took place down the road in Oldham, Bolton and Manchester.

The Lib Dems also bounced, popping up to snaffle seats from the Tories in more leafy parts of Preston - but driven largely by frustration over pothole-ridden roads and a squeeze on school places. Both issues that the city council can't actually do anything about due to the tier of county-level government in Lancashire. But the technicalities of government don't matter on the doorstep - there's a problem, it needs fixing, and 'they' - the politicians - are to blame.

One thing that did unite all parties though in Preston; they want a general election - and they want it now.

That's just a snapshot, on a very local level, of how politics in the North - despite the low, low turnout - has become increasingly unpredictable, volatile and *whisper it quietly* interesting again.

(Ed Walker)