There is no spin or expectation management that can hide the fact this was a disastrous night for the Tories in London. The party lost control not only of Barnet but also its flagship councils of Westminster and Wandsworth, which it had held for decades. Many of their candidates branded themselves as local Conservatives to distance themselves from Downing Street. It made little difference.
Areas such as Wandsworth have been trending Labour for years, and the party now holds all three of its seats in Parliament — but it remains hugely symbolic. So too is the victory in Barnet, where Sir Keir Starmer sought to demonstrate that he had clawed his party back from the one led by Jeremy Corbyn which was found by the EHRC to have breached equality law over its handling of anti-Semitism.
Across the country, it was more of a mixed bag. Labour has gone backwards in some places, including in the Red Wall. However, it is important to note that these seats were last contested in 2018, not 2019. Labour largely held the Red Wall in 2018, and so standing still or going back only slightly represents progress on their results at the 2019 general election.
It was a good night for the Liberal Democrats and the Greens. While this may worry Labour — the Lib Dems managed to win Hull off them — it will frighten the Tories too. That is because a well organised anti-Conservative vote at the next general election will vastly increase the chances of the Tories losing their overall majority.
As the dust settles on these elections, the bigger problem for Boris Johnson is the return of day-to-day politics. Partygate has not gone away and the Metropolitan Police will shortly be back to issue further fines for lockdown breaches. The economy is also in dire straits, with the Bank of England raising interest rates, predicting double-digit inflation and warning of a recession amid a cost of living crisis. A post-local elections Cabinet reshuffle will solve none of these problems.
Neither Labour nor the Tories can be confident of victory at the next general election. For voters, their main concern at present is unlikely to be an election two years away, but how they will pay their rent, energy bill and food shop this month.
Give bees a chance
Bees and other insects pollinate three-quarters of the plants that produce 90 per cent of the world’s food. It is not just honey for which we rely on them. But due to habitat loss, climate change and pollution, bee populations in Britain are falling and some species could go extinct.
So there is a buzz of excitement around a garden forming the centrepiece of this year’s RHS Flower Show to help bees bloom. The design by Joe Swift features the silhouette of a bee wing surrounded by examples of the RHS’s Plants for Pollinators and mud for bees with which to make nests. It hopes to demonstrate that anyone can make their outside space both more friendly to bees and more beautiful.
The loss of bees’ habitats mirrors that of other vital insects, damaging our natural world and making us less resilient to climate change. Time to give bees a chance.