Thursday 6 May sees elections for 143 councils covering the majority of England; the Scottish and Welsh parliaments; the London mayor and assembly; a number of other mayoral and police and crime commissioner positions; and the parliamentary by-election in Hartlepool.
The local elections are for seats last contested in May 2016 (when Labour did poorly) or in May 2017 (when Labour did very poorly, though it recovered quickly between then and the June 2017 general election). So it shouldn’t be hard for Labour to show some gains.
Yet Labour’s campaigns have been deeply uninspiring. A focus on NHS pay has fallen flat, unsurprisingly given that councils do not control health service pay and that Labour’s position is weak. Far from using the election to rally opposition to local government cuts and for restored funding to councils, Labour has said essentially nothing about cuts and funding.
Even so, Workers’ Liberty members and supporters have been out campaigning for Labour.
Those on the left — particularly the “internet-based” left — who seem almost gleeful at potential Labour setbacks are misguided and irresponsible. A good result for the Tories — who are hiding plans for further austerity under big bailouts for business and “culture war” agitation about the Union Jack, against Black Lives Matter and so on — will push us back.
Whatever the result, the Labour right is likely to claim it justifies them. (If Labour does badly, they’ll say that shows we haven’t “recovered” from Corbynism yet, and need to push further right. If Labour does well, they will say that we’re making strides under Keir...)
Yet the Tories are beset by sleaze, a Brexit botched even in their own terms, and a pandemic in which they’ve fumbled everything other than still having a coordinated public-service NHS able to do vaccination better than countries with even-more-marketised health care. Labour should be doing much better than even the most optimistic predictions about 6 May suggest. Starmer’s approach of saying as little as possible is wrong, but also not “working”.
The job after 6 May is to organise opposition to Starmer’s policies and politics and a fight for positive pro-working class alternatives, within the party and crucially within the unions. Labour’s three biggest affiliates and funders are the three biggest local government unions, Unison, GMB and Unite, yet none has pushed a fight against the cuts.