What do this week’s local election results mean for general election forecasts? The Conservatives’ conquest of local councils is turning some parts of Britain blue for the first time. Labour might be winning the battle on social media, but does it matter?
Local elections: cause for correlation?
The Financial Times thought the results were a sign that the Tory general election strategy was succeeding, and vindication of the decision to fight a “Brexit election” - something The Telegraph agreed with.
Further analysis by the FT suggests that Mrs May could be better placed ahead of the June 8 election than Margaret Thatcher was before her landslide victories of 1983 and 1987.
The BBC reported John Curtice’s analysis that Theresa May would win a bigger majority if the council results were reflected at next month’s general election, but this was unlikely to be enough for the landslide she’s hoping for. Indeed, the outcome of the general election is not a foregone conclusion. The Conservatives are currently 17 points ahead in the polls, but only secured an 11-point lead in the local elections.. It’s worth remembering that this would only be four points above David Cameron’s lead in 2010 where he fell 20 seats short of a majority government.
Perhaps this analysis was in the minds of some incredibly optimistic Corbyn supporters interviewed by The Guardian this week. “If Trump can get in, if Brexit can happen, then why can’t Labour win?” they ask. SixFifty’s series of articles on polling and elections explain why this is unlikely.
Blue Britain: councils conquered by Conservatives
The South West of England is seen as an indicator of Liberal Democrat progress under Tim Farron. The FT reported only gloomy news for the party, as the Lib Dems lost seats to Tories in Somerset and Dorset. The BBC noted that their 18% vote share was well below the 25% the party used to achieved.
In Scotland, the Conservatives more than doubled their share of Scottish local council seats to 276. The SNP maintained its dominance, winning 431 seats and ending decades of Labour rule in the traditional socialist heartland of Glasgow.
Everyone seemed to agree that the UKIP bubble had burst and that this was good news for the Tories. Even Nigel Farage was reported to say as much in an interview with The Guardian.
Labour is winning the social media battle, but does it matter?
Buzzfeed has launched its Social Barometer, which handily helps us to understand what is trending on social media. It reports a stark difference between the traditional press and social media, where debate is dominated by positive news stories of Labour under Corbyn whilst the Tories are depicted in a harsher light.
Pollsters will need to ensure they properly account for this sentiment. Focus too much on it and they could over-represent Labour voters. Too little and they could underestimate Labour turnout. Until opinion polls restore their credibility with accurate forecasts, for all we know those optimistic Corbyn voters could be onto something.