Eight things we learned from the local election results

Ed Miliband

1. Parties can win an election without winning.

On paper, Labour clearly won. They have gained more than 250 seats, and they are easily ahead on projected national share. If Britons voted like this in a general election, Ed Miliband would be prime minister. But it hasn't felt like a victory for them. If you want to know who feels as if they've won an election, ignore what politicians say, turn the volume down and look at their faces on TV. Who's happiest? It's definitely Ukip first, then probably the Conservatives, then Labour, then the Lib Dems. That's because, given the likelihood of the gap between Labour and the Conservatives closing between now and 2015, Labour know this isn't good enough to offer a strong chance of victory.

2. Ukip's chances of winning the European elections don't look as good as they did on Thursday evening. Their national vote share is down six points compared to last year, and, although there must be some people who voted Ukip in the Euros and for another party in the locals, there must be a chance that the polls saying Ukip would win have got it wrong.

3. Labour now fully realise that Ukip presents them with a serious electoral threat. This shouldn't be a surprise. Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin have written a very good book making this very case. But it has taken a while for the message to get through.

4. Labour's post-election inquest will probably be more serious than the Conservatives'. Journalists expected these elections to trigger a mini crisis in the Conservative party, but there has been no evidence of that at all. A few Eurosceptics have renewed their call for a pact with Ukip, but this is an absolute non-starter, and they know it; generally, the Eurosceptics have decided not to cause trouble. But the public comments from Labour figures suggest the party is going to conduct a proper postmortem, not into Ed Miliband's leadership (they are stuck with him, for better or worse), but into whether their Ukip strategy is correct. And that's because ...

5. None of the parties have a clue what to do about Ukip. Politicians from all the main parties have been saying much the same thing: that voters have sent them a message, and that they must listen. But there is no real agreement what the message is, or what they should do about it.

6. A second hung parliament looks increasingly inevitable. Four-party politics is increasingly entrenched in English politics (as in Scottish and Welsh politics, only they have a different four parties), and that makes it harder for any of them to win outright.

7. The Lib Dems are vulnerable even in their strongholds. Last year they thought they had hit rock bottom in the local elections. They hadn't. Although they are holding on in some Lib Dem areas, in others they are losing seats. The BBC say even Vince Cable would lose his seat on the basis of today's results.

8. London really is different from the rest of the country electorally. It seems to be the only place in England impervious to Ukip's charms. Like Scotland. (Perhaps if Scotland goes independent we Londoners could join up with them, share the pound, and leave the rest of England with something Ukip-ish, like the groat?)

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Andrew Sparrow, for theguardian.com on Friday 23rd May 2014 19.17 Europe/London

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