Theresa May’s local victories are good for the Union cause but give no comfort to special status fans

  A note of caution is needed about  talk of a Tory landslide on 8 June. Although UKIP was obliterated in the GB local elections,  Labour might have done even worse.

Michael Thrasher’s projections of the local results to the general election “ for a bit of fun” on Sky News   works out a majority of  48 seats, up a respectable 36 but well short of a landslide and barely worth  the trouble of calling a snap election.

John Curtice, election guru extraordinaire warns on the BBC

The outcome of the general election is not a foregone conclusion

Mrs May is hoping to secure a landslide, but the 11-point Conservative lead in the local elections is less than the party’s current average lead of 17 points in the opinion polls.

Indeed, it is only four points above the lead David Cameron had in 2010, which only gave the party an overall majority of 12.

Winning a landslide is likely to come about as a result of a big double digit lead over Labour, but the party fell somewhat short of that target in these elections at least.

ITV News political editor Robert Peston is less cautious.

What does it all mean?

Well it reinforces the idea that the Tories are heading for a landslide on June 8 – though you won’t hear May or any senior Tory even hinting at that, because they are terrified their supporters will become complacent.

Perhaps more importantly, the Tories seem to be re-establishing themselves as a genuinely national party in a way they have not been since Thatcher and Major 25 years ago.

They are picking up support all over England and in Wales, rather than largely in the wealthy south east, where they are always strong. And we will see later today whether their recent partial rehabilitation in Scotland is gaining momentum.

The Guardian is equally bold, extrapolating  from the BBC’s figures.

The projection that May would be within touching distance of a 100-seat majority is born out by the BBC projected national vote share of 38% Conservatives (up three from 2015 local elections), Labour 27% (down two), Lib Dems 18% (up seven), Ukip 5% (down eight) and others on 12%. This implies a 2.5% swing from Labour to Conservative or a Commons majority of 56 compared with the 2015 local elections.

But in 2015 the Tories went on to poll even better at the subsequent general election, as happened in both of Margaret Thatcher’s landslide victories in 1983 and 1987. On the basis of this marginals analysis, May is heading for a majority of 80-100.

Prof Will Jennings of Southampton University and the Polling Observatorysaid the results confirmed that the Conservatives were looking at a sizeable victory on 8 June, but added it was still not possible to be sure of the scale. He said that, crucially, the results confirmed the national polling picture of the Conservatives enjoying an unassailable lead over Labour and steadily peeling off Ukip voters, while also making gains in Scotland.

“The big uncertainty is how turnout will affect the final margin,” he said. “Events like the mayoral loss in Tees Valley suggest Labour may be in for a harrowing night unless something dramatic happens during the remainder of the campaign.

The Tory surge in Scotland is remarkable  but is largely at the Labour’s expense, not the SNP’s.  Although the  SNP are still comfortably Scotland’s largest party after 10 years in power, their aura of invincibility has taken an inevitable dent   If reflected in the general election  the  trend would surely  push Indyref2  further away without by any means disposing  of it altogether. Brian Taylor, veteran BBC Scotland pol ed emphasises SNP consolidation at Labour’s expense as well as  big Tory gains.

 The SNP is recording gains in various councils – but the Tory advance is consistent.

For example, in Aberdeen, the SNP put on seats to become the largest party. The Conservatives put on even more to push Labour into third place.

This probably reflects the nature of contemporary political discourse in Scotland, defined as it is by attitudes to independence as well as the UK-wide topic of Brexit.

The SNP have made substantial gains in recent elections, most notably in the 2015 UK General.

The Conservatives have, deliberately and precisely, sought to counter that by projecting themselves as the most formidable defenders of the Union, edging out their rivals.

Remember too, that the Scottish Tories used to stand under the banner of the Unionists. Without changing their name back, they are now doing so again.

What might  these elections mean for Ireland north and south?

The annihilation of UKIP  in England has vindicated May a former luke warm Remain supporter, donning the mantle of Leave and wrapping the Union Jack around her in Scotland too. Her critics might concede that the Tory gains there owe nothing to the rise of  English nationalism but a lot to Leave sentiment and opposition to  Indyref2.  Remain looks  more redundant than ever unless it accepts defeat  for the cause of a second referendum and retrenches  to argue for a long transition period in the single market.

With endless repetition of the mantra  “strong and stable,”  it  will be harder than ever  and out of  character as far as we can judge, for May to do a U turn and bid to join the single market on Remain terms. No deal looks a lot more likely. She will surely feel a strong sense of obligation to all those voters transferring from Ukip. But  you never quite know – remember de  Gaulle  with his “Je vous ai compris” to  the  pieds noir  and then went on to take France to the brink of civil war in order to quit Algeria?

 

 

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London