Clearly a tough set of results for the Liberal democrats – but not all gloom and doom. Here is Mark Pack’s post on LibDem Voice (before the London results came in)
Beyond the headlines, six points in particular strike me:
1. It looks as if the party will keep control of all the councils that had Lib Dem majorities before Thursday. Cambridge is a technical loss, but the party will keep control on the Mayor’s casting vote. Each of those Lib Dem council leaders and their teams deserve heavy praise for that impressive verdict on their council and political skills. (one lost post this post).
2. The results in seats with Liberal Democrat MPs, at least in England, have generally been good, not only in southern England but elsewhere too. In Hallam, for example, we won every seat and our vote was up on last year. That is a major saving grace: the local election base where it really matters for general election results has come out of the last two years in a much better state than elsewhere.
3. Outside MP seats, some areas where the party would hope to gain MPs in future elections, such as in Winchester, showed decent progress on last year and an ability to go head-to-head with the Tories and survive. Some, but by no means all. There is, however, a big enough local government place in the sorts of seats the party could fight seriously for the party to be able to be contesting seriously comfortably more seats than it has won in any previous general election. If the party has to fight on a smaller front that will be because of other political considerations, not because the local base is not there. That is particularly worth stating because some in the media are trying to push as “the party is doomed” line.
4. The smaller parties have generally done badly. UKIP may have piled up some votes, but it is not breaking through in winning seats. The Greens have continued their generally lacklustre performance of the past few years. Winning their first Parliamentary seat in 2010 is the major caveat to that, but even in the 2010 election results elsewhere were frequently poor and their local government base has not made a breakthrough. Thankfully the same too can be said of the BNP, who have been doing even worse – probably ending up losing all their seats up for election.
5. Labour’s progress is decent but not spectacular. Their results this year are (still) worse than other previous oppositions have achieved, even some which have gone on to defeat. Superficially that is bad news for Labour, showing how far their recovery still has to go, but it is also a warning for the government: this may not be Labour’s peak of mid-term popularity.
6. Unless there is a bizarre outbreak of reshuffle panic, any changes should wait until Jeremy Hunt’s fate is clearer, i.e. until after his appearance at the Leveson Inquiry. When a reshuffle does come, the Liberal Democrat changes will see David Laws return. Given the size of the task still facing the party, changes should also be made that reflect the relative media ability of Lib Dem ministers (see this league table). There is no room for those who are content to be low profile. Every minister needs to be making a full contribution to getting over the party’s message.