Analysis: Mixed bag of results for Labor’s average jury still on Keir Starmer

Last Saturday we reported that the local elections were a time of danger as well as an opportunity for Keir Starmer.

The Labor leader had to show that he was making enough progress to prove to his party that we were on the right track to lead him to victory in the next general election.

With a significant chunk of the results now available, it’s pretty clear that while Labor has firmly established itself as the natural party of government in London, that’s certainly not the case in other parts of the country.

Senior party officials were understandably keen to highlight the successes of the evening, such as victories in true blue Westminster and Wandsworth, as well as the impressive victory in the new council of Cumberland.

“It’s a good, solid progression, especially considering that we were completely crushed in 2019,” a member of the shadow cabinet told HuffPost UK.

“We are now ready to sue the Tories in the seats they still hold in central London, and we have stemmed the tide in the red wall. We’re also hoping to be second in Scotland, which obviously isn’t where we want to be, but again that’s a step up from where we were in the recent past.

But others were also disappointed with the party’s performance in the Midlands and the north of England, where they will need to make big gains to win the next election.

Indeed, polling expert Prof John Curtice has pointed out that the party’s support in the red wall areas it lost to the Tories in the last general election is actually down from 2018, when council seats were last contested there.

“For a party looking to make progress…it wasn’t quite the degree of progress they might have anticipated,” he told the BBC.

So how could Starmer respond to the message sent by the electorate last night?

A senior Labor official said: ‘I suspect the internal response will be that this shows why Labor needs to target its entire strategy even more narrowly at men aged 45-65 voting Tory in the red wall seats.’

Overall, Starmer is likely to be quietly happy with his night job. But with many in the party still unconvinced by his credentials as an election winner, it is fair to say the jury is still out on whether he is the man to bring Labor back into government.

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