The results of the midnight local elections were encouraging for Labour and unsettling for the Conservatives. There was also applause for the Liberal Democrats and Greens.

However, with three-quarters of the councils still counting results on Friday, it will be some time before a complete picture emerges. Labour had gained a net gain of 119 seats and had taken control of three major goals after the early results were counted overnight. Plymouth, with a particularly large swing, Stoke, a previous Labour but pro-Brexit bastion lost to the Conservatives in 2019, and Medway were among them.

In comparison, the Conservatives had lost a net of 228 councillors and five councils, leaving them with no overall control.


What does it mean for a general election?

However, these figures only show who has risen and who has fallen since the last time most of the seats were contested.That was in May 2019, when the Conservatives and Labour were both polling poorly. They don’t address the main question that politicians, commentators, and the public want to know: is Labour on track to win the general election next year, as polls suggest? To answer that, we must examine the votes cast.

The BBC is compiling comprehensive ward-by-ward voting figures from 45 of the 230 municipalities that held elections on Thursday. Almost half of these councils were counted overnight.

Following the overnight count, these councils’ results show a four-point swing from Conservative to Labour since 2019, and a two-and-a-half-point swing since last year.

These movements are lesser than may have been expected considering Labour’s five-point gain in national surveys since last year. Labour will be particularly upset that, while the Conservatives are currently five points behind in 2022, their own vote share is only modestly higher than last year. While voters’ rejection of the Conservatives was unequivocal, there may be some doubt about their enthusiasm for the Labour alternative. Labour, on the other hand, will be happy that it appears to have gained support since last year in wards where the Leave vote was very strong in the 2016 referendum. Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership has prioritized regaining the support of Brexit supporters in the United Kingdom.

A good night for the Lib Dems?

The Liberal Democrats are still struggling to make inroads in the general election vote intention polls. However, they have traditionally performed better in council elections, and they were defending one of their best performances in local elections since joining forces with the Conservatives in 2010.

They will be thrilled not just with their net gain of roughly 50 seats following the overnight count, but also with their vote share increasing marginally since both 2019 and last year. The capture of Windsor and Maidenhead, the home region of former Prime Minister Theresa May, was the frosting on the cake for the party. Overall, the party may have set a new high in municipal elections since forming a coalition with the Conservatives in 2010. However, the Liberal Democrats will be disappointed because there has been little evidence of them gaining the tactical support of third-placed Labour supporters in wards where they are challenging the Conservatives locally. Obtaining such tactical support may be critical to the party’s chances of taking seats from the Conservatives in the general election.


Heavy losses for the Tories

Many Conservatives were likely expecting that the local elections would show that the party’s electoral position was not as terrible as polls had suggested in recent months.

In practice, overnight ballot counts confirm that the Conservatives are in serious political jeopardy.Any solace the party can take from the fact that it may have lost less ground to Labour than it feared is undermined by the Liberal Democrats’ rise. As a result, the party faces the possibility of incurring the 1,000 losses it had hoped to avert by the end of Friday.

Given the difficulty that minor parties face in securing seats under the first-past-the-post voting system, it is hardly unexpected that the Greens have only gained 30 seats so far.

Nonetheless, the party has maintained the record level of support that it won four years ago, and, more importantly, has increased its share of the vote by a couple of points in wards where it was already strong. The Conservatives and Labour may dominate Westminster politics, but the political stripes of English local government are far more diverse.