By Matthew Barrett
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Following on from Tim Montgomerie's six immediate reactions to the local election results, I've summarised the reactions from other leading political commentators.
Daniel Hannan argues that part of the reason the Tories (and Lib Dems) did badly was the Coalition's incompetence in dealing with the deficit:
"Any government at a time of austerity has to exude competence. People will put up with a great deal provided they sense that their leaders know what they're doing. Going without jam today is fine if we can credibly expect a recovery. When the suspicion arises that the government is headline-driven, at the mercy of events or – worst of all – simply inept, the goodwill disappears. Put bluntly, voters need to see that the deficit is falling, prices stabilising and growth returning."
James Forsyth says many Tories want a shakeup of the Number 10 operation:
"Now, undoubtedly some of this is just the acceptable way of criticising the leader. But reinforcements arriving in Downing Street — especially ones with deep roots in the Tory party — would reassure quite a few people, as well as broadening Number 10’s support base in the party."
Dan Hodges says Ed Miliband has been victorious enough to supress any rumours about his leadership:
"He secured strong enough gains to suppress, for the rest of the week at least, grumblings about his leadership. The elections were framed as a test for him, and it’s a test he has passed. At the same time the wins were not of such a magnitude that Labour is suddenly going to let success go to its head and start casting around for a leader to pull itself those last few yards over the finishing line. This represents steady progress that will give Miliband and his party time to calmly sit back and take stock."
Rafael Behr predicts that a confident Labour Party and Tories urging for more Conservative policies will squeeze the Lib Dems:
"In the past, whenever a delegation of irate MPs has challenged Cameron to choose between his coalition partners and his party, he has sided with the latter. The pressure on Cameron to assert a more robust Conservative identity – which comes increasingly from liberal Tories as well as the right – combined with a growing Labour appetite for “finishing the job” of crushing Clegg means the third party could be about to face a murderous squeeze."
Iain Martin says UKIP look set to substantially increase their vote share compared to 2010:
"Ukip is taking much encouragement from its results, quite rightly. In the seats where it stood candidates it seems to have averaged a 13 per cent share of the vote. That is 5 per cent up on last time, a statistic that should deeply trouble the Tory leadership. Not all Ukip voters are disillusioned Conservatives, but at this rate the party is on track to add substantially to the 900,000 votes it garnered at the last general election. Only a Cameroon with his or head stuck in the sand could say that this is not a serious problem for the Tories."
Alex Massie laments the failure of the campaign for elected mayors – and David Cameron's unwillingness to campaign for them:
"Be not mistaken, the rejection of directly-elected mayors is a mighty blow to David Cameron's much-trumpeted "localism" agenda. This, you may struggle to remember, was supposed to be the government's "Big Idea". And yet, as Daniel Knowles points out, the Prime Minister scarcely bothered to campaign for it at all. Contrast the energy the Conservatives devoted to thwarting efforts to change the voting system with the lackadaisical approach to reforming municiple government. It may not be a trendy or sexy subject but it's an important one."
Finally, Peter Hoskin is concerned about the low turnout yesterday:
"This wouldn’t be the lowest turnout figure for any local election in history — but the lowest since 2000, when the figure was less than 30 per cent. … Not only is 32 per cent terribly low in itself, but it has come at a time when, in theory, the public are more connected to politics than ever before. There's 24-hour news coverage, the Internet, blogs, social media, etc, all helping us to cultivate our political opinions. There are even postal ballots to help us express those opinions more easily. And yet the public still can’t really be fussed."