Express & Star

Peter Madeley on local elections: Predicted swing to Labour never came to pass

This was meant to be a set of elections where voters sent out a dire warning to Boris Johnson over his many perceived failings.

The Dudley count at Stourbridge Crystal Leisure Centre

'Partygate', sleaze, the cost of living crisis and an economy heading downhill, it all pointed to carnage for the Conservatives at the ballot box.

But in the Black Country and part of Staffordshire at least, the widely predicted huge swing towards Labour simply never materialised.

There was no change in Wolverhampton or Sandwell, where Labour holds sizeable majorities. The Tories maintained a majority of 20 in Dudley and gained a seat in Walsall to strengthen their grip on the council.

The Conservatives also gained another seat in Cannock Chase, having taken full control of the council for the first time last year.

Granted, Labour was defending the majority of seats on our councils from the 2018 elections, but across the region there was no sizeable collapse in the Tory vote.

Labour will say it has stopped the bleeding from last year's local elections when the party took a ballot box battering, losing more than 30 seats over the five councils.

And it is true to say that seeing the Tories only win three seats in Sandwell, for example, is a big improvement on the nine that went down last year.

Still, the overall picture in the region will be viewed as a concern for Sir Keir Starmer's party.

This year's results suggest the Tories are looking weaker nationally, due mainly to the loss of control of a handful of councils including Wandsworth and Westminster.

But across the country there has been no spectacular loss of blue seats, and the 'red wall' has remained in place.

In parts of the West Midlands, Labour has certainly not made the inroads that would usually be expected by this stage of an election cycle and up against a Conservative government 12 years into power.

The Conservatives have gone through six months of hell, with scandal coming after scandal and the Prime Minister only avoiding a leadership challenge from his own party due to a lack of suitable candidates to replace him.

On top of this, the national media agenda has focused so keenly on Boris-bashing that viewers of BBC News would be forgiven for thinking that Sir Keir had been surreptitiously elected as our nation's leader.

The truth is that in some parts of our region Labour success is now largely reliant on Conservative supporters not turning out to vote.

And make no mistake, there were plenty that stayed at home this year hoping that the resulting 'bloody nose' would force the Government to buck its ideas up on issues such as immigration and the spiralling cost of living.

Labour may want to consider whether working people in the Black Country and Staffordshire have time for its obsession with wokery and niche issues such as trans rights.

Meanwhile the Tories will be acutely aware of the fact that these elections should have seen them build on last year's successes.

That for the most part they didn't can be put squarely down to national failings.

The Conservatives will need to address those failings post-haste if they are to keep the electorate onside.