Britain: Local elections – Tories trounced, Labour gains, but abstentions win

The Tories have received a trouncing at the recent local elections in Britain. Yet there is no enthusiasm for Starmers’ Labour, which will be unable to solve any of the crises facing workers and youth. The ground is being prepared for a social explosion.

For most people the May elections were a non-event. The clear winner, once again, were those who didn’t bother to vote. By staying at home, millions of people symbolically held up two fingers to what was being offered.

The elections saw 8,000 seats on 230 local councils contested across England.

With many of the results now in, the Tories have experienced a trouncing, and could end up losing 1,000 seats. The Tory MP for Plymouth said it had been a “terrible night” for them.

The BBC’s projected share of the vote puts Labour on 35%, the Tories on 26%, the Lib Dems on 20% and others on 19%.

Tories on the ropes

Sunak scrooge Image Socialist AppealRishi Sunak has failed to turn things around after the disastrous performance of the Johnson and Truss governments / Image: Socialist Appeal

Being a rough test of public opinion, these elections confirm how hated the Tories are. Rishi Sunak has failed to turn things around after the disastrous performance of the Johnson and Truss governments.

The Tories were clearly on the ropes with early gains for Labour in Plymouth and Stoke-on-Trent, part of the ‘red wall’ lost in 2019.

Labour took Swindon, North East Derbyshire, Dover, Broxtowe, high Peak, and Medway. They also succeeded in winning the position of mayor in Middlesbrough.

Meanwhile the Tories lost control of a string of councils, including Brentwood, Tamworth, East Lindsey in Lincolnshire, and North West Leicestershire.

Labour’s campaign manager said the party was on course for a majority Labour government, which could be possible on these results. The Lib Dems and Greens also picked up support, mainly from the Tories.

With turnout at rock bottom, the common refrain has been: ‘They are all the same’. This was the feeling of many people, knowing that whoever is elected nothing seems to change. In fact things get worse or cost more, or both.

“One of the big obstacles is that voters have so little hope that they see no point in voting or switching,” explained one Labour supporter.


Even in former Brexit voting areas, there is utter disillusionment with the Tories. After going through Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liz Truss, and now Rishi Sunak, in quick succession, the Tories have run out of road.

“I voted for Boris Johnson because I wanted Brexit – but the Tories won’t get my vote any more”, said Chris Hughes, a retired lorry driver in Skegness. He wants a “clean sweep” at Westminster, but had little faith in Starmer.

The ‘oven-ready deal’ has simply vanished from the menu, as has ‘levelling up’.

“What about the £350mn a week for the NHS?” said another. “The NHS is struggling more than ever.”

Those who thought it was going to make a difference are thoroughly disillusioned with the lot. The mood is flatter than a pancake.

During the election campaign, Tory candidates had their hopes raised when one said, “people aren’t slamming the door in our faces … that’s an improvement.”

However, as Philippa Humphrey, a 34 year old kitchen assistant, who is frustrated by the lack of activities for children and the long waiting list at pharmacies and GP surgeries, said: “They’re a pack of selfish bastards.”

“People haven’t got a pot to piss in,” added another. “I used to like them, but their disregard for the common person is embarrassing.”

No enthusiasm

Starmer WEF Image fair useThere is about as much enthusiasm for Labour as a plate of stale porridge / Image: fair use

While national opinion polls have narrowed compared to the catastrophe of Truss, Labour’s support is greater than in the dying days of Boris Johnson. Labour is averaging 16 points ahead nationally.

But that indicates hatred for the Tories rather than positive support for ‘Sir’ Keir Starmer. There is about as much enthusiasm for Labour as a plate of stale porridge.

In the runup to these elections, Starmer’s Labour has launched a charm offensive, not towards the working class, but to business and private equity bosses. Starmer wants everyone to know that Labour is now a pro-business party.

Together with Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, Starmer has met more than 1,000 business leaders in the last three years.

In their trip to Davos, the billionaires’ club, they met senior executives from Wall Street’s biggest investment banks including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, and Morgan Stanley.

This sums up their approach. They are well and truly in the pockets of big business.

Starmer will benefit from the anger towards the Tories, and is likely to be thrust into power next year. But in power they will act little differently from the Tories. They are wedded to capitalism and will bend the knee to the rich and privileged.

While today, there is anger at the cuts in local services, especially in Labour councils, these councils have sought to blame the Tories. With a Labour government, they will not be able to use this spurious argument. This will mean anger directed against Labour locally and nationally.

Rising anger

No wonder young people in particular are alienated by this crisis-ridden system and its political defenders.

Even the former Tory minister, Lord David Willetts, explained that the problem of young people “is related to the failure to deliver the classic promise of modern capitalism – that economic advance should mean that each generation is better off than the one before”.

Precisely! Capitalism has failed. Rather than advance, the system is in terminal decline, wracked with crisis at every level.

What is striking about these local elections is the complete apathy of a growing layer of workers and youth. More and more are becoming alienated from the traditional parties, which are seen as little more than props to the establishment.

On top of this is a deep-seated anger as the poor get poorer, and the rich get richer. While workers are told by the Bank of England to accept wage cuts, the billionaire class is amassing obscene wealth and power.

The High Pay Centre and TUC research estimates that median FTSE 100 chief executive pay in 2021 was 109 times that of the medium full-time worker. This was up from 79 times in 2020, and 107 times in 2019.

Prepare for revolution

May Day demo Image Socialist AppealSocialist Appeal believes all the parties that try to patch-up capitalism will be found wanting / Image: Socialist Appeal

For the majority, this election has been, at best, a sideshow. The real problems facing working people, such as the cost-of-living crisis, have not been answered.

More and more, people are looking for real change from the miseries they face. But all they are offered is more of the same.

This angry mood developing in society is preparing social explosions. Only a fundamental change, a revolutionary change, can resolve things. That is why we believe all the parties that try to patch-up capitalism will be found wanting.

The road ahead is one of deepening crisis and falling living standards. It is only a matter of time before workers and youth will seek a new way out. We have to build the forces, the forces of Marxism, that can offer this escape from the miseries of capitalism.

This election has solved nothing. We must prepare for the revolutionary events that are coming.

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