With about a third of results in, the main headlines of this election are already emerging:
– disastrous night for the Lib Dems,
– pretty positive for the Conservatives with, at time of writing, three additional councils falling under their control and ten council seats gained; #
– for Labour progress but perhaps slightly mixed fortunes with strong gains in the north but also, it appears, some gains in the south (and this will be one of the stories to watch as the day goes on), they’re also looking likely to secure an overall majority in the Welsh Assembly, but set against this they have a poor result in Scotland and perhaps might have hoped for a slightly larger share of the overall vote.
But what all this means is still far from clear. This is an election where the full picture will emerge through the local detail – our 50 councils to watch should be particularly interesting and we’ll keep reporting on them through the day. Nonetheless, some key questions emerge:
Why should the Lib Dems have done so much worse than their coalition partners? There has already been speculation that this is because a lot of their previous support was a protest vote which they no longer gain now in government. Yet this seems to ignore their record on local government. Another possibility is that it represents a public rejection of the coalition, not as a government, but as a coalition with the junior partner, taking the main hit.
Whatever the reason, it certainly appears that with the local map now predominantly two coloured again; with majority governments looking likely in Scotland and Wales; and with, if the bookies and pollsters are right, a resounding rejection of AV imminent, this is not looking like a great night for multi party politics.