Don’t you miss elections? One of the upsides of the disaster zone that is recent British politics has been the near annual drama of electoral reckoning. Shock exit polls; Andrew Neil telling us that ‘this is an election like no other’; politicians giving resignation speeches in a run-down leisure centre. Those were the days.
Anyway, good news, they’re back! This May, Britain goes to the polls for a series of elections which may seem less dramatic than others we’ve had recently, but which will actually go a long way in revealing which way the wind is blowing.
The 2021 Elections include votes on local councils, police and crime commissioners, Scottish and Welsh parliament, regional mayoral elections, and more. London, Manchester, the West Midlands, Liverpool, Tees Valley, and the West of England are just some areas that are up for grabs. The last year has shown positive signs for Labour overall, and they definitely go into the vote with the most to gain. The national polls have narrowed massively since Johnson’s 2019 victory, and come on, that can’t be a surprise right? Getting Brexit done was impressive and all, but dealing with the 47th wave a killer virus while dipping in and out of lockdown twice a week hasn’t been fun, and the voters are understandably weary.
The challenge for Labour will be turning this momentum into results. Starmer has rebutted the Government well, but he hasn’t offered much of a rousing vision other than not being Corbyn or Johnson (which is a good start to be fair…). The problem for Keir though is that as the Government’s response to the pandemic starts to improve, and the impressive vaccine rollout continues, his position weakens. If you are relying on the other side being rubbish, you are inherently vulnerable.
Some of these elections are just window dressing. Sadiq Khan will win in London. The King of the North Andy Burnham will win in Manchester. The more interesting elections are in places like the West Midlands, where Conservative Andy Street faces a close challenge from Labour’s Liam Byrne, or in Tees Valley, where Ben Houchen faces a tight race with Labour’s Jessie Joe Jacobs.
These elections will be tight. If the Tories hold on where they have incumbency, they will be the winners of the night. Failing to overturn Sadiq or Burnham is irrelevant, Labour are the ones who need to make the gains, who have the most to prove. Life after Corbyn started well but doubts have begun to creep in about Starmer. This is the first big chance for him to prove the doubters wrong, and show that under his leadership, the Labour Party is back in business.
So, are the public here for Keir? Do they yearn for Byrne? Is Jessie their bessie? With 10 weeks until judgement day, it is anyone’s game.