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The right-wing press and the centrist commentariat had their responses to the local elections well prepared. Labour would of course make gains – this is mid-term for the government after all – but not really significant gains. In Scotland they would suffer at the hands of the SNP. Boris would win handsomely in London. The Tories would hold their own in the south of England. Ed Miliband’s leadership would be called in to question yet more strongly.
The central fact about the election results is that none of this happened. Against the predictions, and hopes of most commentators, many of whom have still not forgiven Ed for usurping his brother David’s presumed throne, Labour did everywhere perform better than expected.
In Scotland Labour and the SNP both made gains at the expense of the Lib Dems and the Conservatives, but the SNP did not make the expected headway against Labour, whose control of Glasgow remains strong. Boris did, of course, win the London mayoral contest, but by a slender margin of 3 per cent, and this despite the embarrassment of Livingstone’s tax arrangements and tactless remarks about both Jews and gays. Labour took 20 seats in Birmingham from the Coalition parties, and further south it won control of Plymouth, Exeter, Southampton and Reading, as well as some towns on the fringes of London.
In other words predictions of the impending death, or irreversible decline, of the Labour Party, which occur about every ten years or so, have once again been exposed as political wishful thinking. One obvious reason for this is the terrible damage the Lib Dems have inflicted on themselves by their ardent embrace of the Tories in the coalition government, and of the Tory programme of attacks on the NHS, the welfare state and the public sector as a whole.
In Scotland they, like the Tories, are back on the fringes of politics. In my own city of Sheffield it is hard to believe that they were the party in power just over two years ago. They now hold 23 seats out of a total of 84 whilst Labour have 59. There are two Green Councillors and no Conservatives.
Until the Coalition was formed, the Lib Dems attracted support from those disillusioned, for a variety of reasons, with the two major parties. Since 2010 the disillusioned have had to look elsewhere. Rising unemployment and related hardships have enhanced the xenophobic appeal of UKIP, which did almost as well as the Lib Dems in the seats it contested. More encouraging was the success of Respect in Bradford, where they successfully followed up on George Galloway’s stunning by-election victory.
Respect and the Greens show that there is room for radical alternatives to the mainstream parties, but the overall results show that Labour, and especially the two Eds, Miliband and Balls, have been right to attack the Tories economic policy. People are starting to listen to their critique.
Grace Blakeley investigates the curious case of Carillion: how the company’s slow decline and abrupt liquidation reveals the nature of modern capitalism.
The collapse of Carillion could be a watershed moment. Let's seize it to end economically disastrous outsourcing schemes. By Cat Hobbs.
Campaign groups highlight UK complicity in Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses.
Three founders of Momentum talk to Ashish Ghadiali about the two years that have transformed their lives and the fortunes of the British left.
Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade gives the run-down on one of the UK's most profitable - and most deadly - industries.
The real story behind the fire in Grande Synthe’s Linière refugee camp, Dunkirk. From 'Bordered Lives – How Europe fails refugees and migrants' by Hsiao-Hung Pai
Javier Pérez De La Cruz writes about the working class Berlin neighbourhood wrung dry by gentrifiers.
Across the world, thousands of protesters are taking on the planet’s biggest fossil fuel companies. We should support them – and if we can, we should join them. By Kara Moses
Students are suffering the effects of financial instability, stress, and slashed mental health services. Mark Crawford reports.
They're not defending free speech - they're just seeking to shore up their own power, writes Ilyas Nagdee
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns