Since March 2020, the phrase ‘well, things could be worse I suppose’ is a mantra that many of us have lived by in order to retain our sanity at times.
And those seven words will perhaps be giving Boris Johnson some comfort right now – either in his own mind or as whispered in his ear by silver-tongued PR pros and Tory strategists.
The local election results are still being counted and verified, but the general consensus is that the Conservatives have had a tough time of things – although, as hinted, it really could have been worse.
Boris and co took a bit of a tonking in London, but outside of the capital they remained surprisingly steadfast – and, where losses were made, it was often at the hands of the Liberal Democrats and Green Party as opposed to their arch rivals Labour.
The Lib Dems and the Greens can rightly feel triumphant about their day at the polls, but for the Tories and for Labour there are some tough questions to be asked – with ramifications for the various UK political betting markets.
Boris’ Annus Horribilis
It has been a year to forget for Boris Johnson, and a politician that formerly had a Teflon-like quality is finding increasingly that some of the brown stuff is starting to stick to him.
From pandemic mistakes to ‘partygate’ woes, the local election results can be considered something of a protest against him as much as his party, you would wager.
Even so, if Boris starts to lose his sheen in the eyes of voters, he really is a sitting duck – a loss of 225 councillors, with more than 30 councils still to submit their results, is less a minor blip and more a giant neon sign saying change or you’re out at the next General Election.
Safe Tory seats in Westminster, Wandsworth and Barnet have been won by Labour – some which have been blue for more than four decades, and Boris’ assertion that ‘we had a tough night in some parts of the country’ is a sentiment backed by evidence that suggests the capital is turning its back on their leader.
A number of Tories have called on Johnson to quit as prime minister in order to redress some of the balance, with John Mallinson – the Conservative lead for Carlisle City Council – revealing that the PM ‘must shoulder an awful lot of blame’ and ‘cannot be relied upon to be telling the truth’.
Strategically, the Conservatives now have one simple question to answer – can Boris get the British public back on side? His Marmite approach has swept the Tories to an election win and a referendum victory, but if the feeling is that electoral power has gone, they will sleepwalk to a General Election defeat….whenever that may be.
From a punting perspective, the betting market has not overreacted – it’s a 1.10 chance on the Betfair Exchange that Boris is still PM come July. And the Tories are still odds-on favourites to win the most seats in the next election at 1.79….a drift from 1.50, but still not a catastrophic market move.
It may be that Labour have to bludgeon the Tories out of Downing Street at the next poll, but did they do enough to suggest that’s a likelihood on Thursday?
Beers for Fears
The mood in the Labour camp will be celebratory.
They have, somewhat, made themselves electable again in parts of London that have rarely even given them a second look at the ballot, and that has to be considered encouraging.
And yet, on the flipside, they haven’t really replaced that many bricks in the so-called ‘Red Wall’ of Labour constituencies that were lost to the Conservatives at the last vote.
As of 15:30pm on May 6, Labour had gained 43 councillors – but the Lib Dems had gained 124 and even the Greens added 41. When you consider those raw numbers, could you even say that the local elections were a bit of a disaster for Keir Starmer?
It’s now been confirmed that he will be probed for a ‘beergate’ scandal of his own, and the more you bend and shape the numbers, the more it appears as though the local elections were actually a defeat for Labour….despite what their PR machine will insist to the contrary.
Still considered the underdogs in the next general election betting markets despite all of Boris’ blunders, it’s looking increasingly likely that he will out-last his opposite number – lay bettors are already tucking into Starmer to be ousted as Labour boss before 2024.