Theresa May had a bit of a cheek turning up in Wandsworth and claiming a victory where the Tories came within a whisker of losing their jewel in the crown council
Another hundred votes in the right places would have put Labour in power after forty years in opposition. A close examination of the results show that n St Mary’s Park the bottom Tory was a mere 3 votes clear of Labour’s top candidate and the second just 16 head of Labour’s next best. In Earslfield a Labour candidate was pipped by 10 votes. In Shaftesbury Labour came within 35 votes of splitting the ward and Nightingale the Tory margin of safety was 62. The Tory majority on the 60 strong council has been cut from 34 in 2010 to just seven today.
The Tories deserved to lose. Their claim to run a tight ship is in tatters. The £9 billion Battersea Power scheme is a symbol of how they are a soft touch for developers – at the expense of local people crying out for a decent home. Wandsworth has a homelessness crisis but the scheme has just 9% affordable housing. The homeless are paying the price for decades of Tory failure. They sold thousands of affordable homes but built only a few hundred in their place.
Another symbolic failure was the Ofsted report which judged children services as inadequate’. It was judged to be putting vulnerable children at risk. Setting this right has already cost Wandsworth council an extra £14 million.
Theresa May was right, of course, to claim that Labour had thrown everything at seizing this Tory crown jewel. While taking numbers outside my local polling station I was hugged by my old mate Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of london and by a new mate Laura Parker, the national director of Momentum who had brought with her a contingent of activists who were deployed to the wards which produced such close results. It’s true that some Momentum members are horribly ideological and divisive but the majority are as hard working and committed as long standing party members.
Another voter who turned up at my polling station was the Observer’s Andrew Rawnsley who lives at the bottom of our road.
His verdict that “against such a shambolic government, Labour should be doing better than this” reflects a widespread view inside and outside the party. Nonetheless I think he is wrong to argue that the current “stalemate is a result that a government at midterm can live with… A draw is not good enough for the main opposition party.”
That view isn’t supported by the latest prediction from Martin Baxter of Electoral Calculus which has the Tories, with a lead over Labour of just over one per cent in polling averages falling 18 short of a Commons majority.
That is certain death for Theresa May or whoever replaces her. The deal that bought 9 DUP votes would be redundant.
Baxter’s prediction is that there would be 38 SNP, 15 Lib Dems and 3 Plaid. They have two things in common. They would all find any kind of deal with the Tories electoral suicide and they are all anti Brexit.
That raises the intriguing question of whether Jeremy Corbyn has the leadership skills to run a minority government in those circumstances or whether another Labour needs a new leader better suited for the task.
I ran my colours to the mast here a few months ago.
I hope that one day Jeremy will do the decent thing for the party he loves and make way for a woman.