THERE is no point in trying to dress up the local election results as positive for Britain’s left.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell is absolutely right to say the outcome of the vote across Scotland, Wales and some parts of England was mixed, and that Labour won important victories.
But there is no hiding the fact that Labour lost hundreds of seats and that the Conservatives gained hundreds of seats.
It is especially worrying that Theresa May’s party is making significant gains across Scotland, for many years a virtually Tory-free zone.
The advance shows that the politics of competing nationalisms, Scottish and British, are continuing to drown out the politics of class north of the border — which is bad news for working people.
Gains for Plaid Cymru and the Tories in Wales suggest similar forces are at work in that country, although Labour fared significantly better in the only British nation it currently governs than in Scotland.
The total collapse of Ukip will cheer anti-racists, but its cause is clear — Theresa May’s Conservatives are now virtually indistinguishable from the party taken to prominence by Nigel Farage.
A government that moots forcing companies to draw up and publish lists of foreigners in their employ, demanding to see passports at the hospital gate and returning to the days of grammars and secondary moderns offers everything Farage’s “back to the ’50s” outfit did to voters, especially now the decision to leave the European Union has been taken.
The Liberal Democrats also notably failed to make any recovery from the well-deserved drubbing they received in 2015, after shamelessly helping the Conservatives privatise our health service, triple tuition fees, sell off Royal Mail and wage war on disabled people and the unemployed.
Tim Farron might declare that Labour’s losses prove only a vote for his party can stop the Tories, but the claim is nonsense when the Lib Dems are also losing seats — and given that his party is openly willing to return to coalition government with the party of racism and the rich.
No, as journalist Abi Wilkinson has pointed out, these results mean June 8 is a two-horse race — between Labour and the Conservatives.
The Conservatives have a commanding lead, but it is not invulnerable. Local election turnouts are low, much lower than those for general elections.
The younger and the poorer you are, the less likely you are to vote — but the younger and the poorer you are, the more likely you are to support Labour, meaning low turnouts benefit the Tories.
Huge numbers of students have been signing on to the electoral register in recent weeks, and polling — otherwise so dismal for Labour — shows that among young people the party leads.
If the vote was confined to the under-40s, Jeremy Corbyn would beat May easily. All this points to the need for a mammoth get-out-the-vote campaign between now and June 8.
Labour has a huge asset in its party members. This half-a-million-strong army represents man and woman-power on a scale the Tories can only dream of.
However much the parliamentary party and its bureaucracy have mistreated them, Labour members understand what is at stake for Britain and the awful consequences of a victory for May.
Beyond that, the entire movement needs to come together to stop a government committed to smashing trade unions and impoverishing families in or out of work.
A Labour win is the only method of doing so. Over the coming month, everyone on the left should be out fighting for that victory.