Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Tories aren’t panicking – they expected a drubbing

Richard Holden (BBC)

Unsurprisingly, the overnight results from the local elections have been very bruising for the Conservatives. Local election results day is often quite formulaic, though, given there are always predictions of a ‘bloodbath’ for one party or the other for months ahead of polling day. This means that the losses can be priced in to the political narrative, and the spinners for the most damaged party can highlight surprising results.

This morning, the Tories are putting great store by holding onto Harlow, which Keir Starmer visited twice during the campaign. They are also relieved to have only come second, rather than third, in Blackpool South, given how hard Reform campaigned in the seat. The Conservatives, meanwhile, have boasted about how little they spent on that by-election: apparently just 11 per cent of the spending limit. 

The party’s chairman Richard Holden has done the traditional morning broadcast round where campaign chiefs have to sound both solemn about their losses while also finding reasons to be cheerful and rally the troops. His line was that these results looked particularly bad compared to the 2021 set: ‘There’s no doubt that these are a far worse set of elections, as you suggested, than in 2021 when we’d had those vaccine bounce elections.’ The logic of this, of course, doesn’t quite work, because Holden is essentially saying that the Conservatives are doing worse now because people like them less. 

There is not a sense of panic, yet, in the Conservative high command. This is in part because of the way these bad results have been priced in. It is also because the rebels themselves have admitted that they don’t seem to have the numbers to get rid of Rishi Sunak. But the takeaway from the results so far is that a general election defeat for the Conservatives may well already expected – but it’s still going to be a very bad one.

Get the latest analysis from Fraser Nelson, Katy Balls, and James Heale on Spectator TV: