By Paul Goodman
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We're now in a position to compare the results against our Local Government Correspondent's tests for all four main parties.
"Very good result: Retaining even one of
the four counties they gained last time – Staffordshire, Lancashire,
Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.
Good result: Losing those four, but nothing else.
Bad result: Losing control of Northamptonshire, Gloucestershire,
Suffolk, Worcestershire and Oxfordshire."
Because of some losses of control in that last column, I would mark the Conservative result down to "good", on Harry's scorecard.
"Very good result: Gaining overall control in Cumbria and Warwickshire. Or becoming the
largest party in Northamptonshire. Winning enough seats in Gloucestershire or Oxfordshire
to deny the Conservatives overall control.
Good result: Gaining Staffordshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire and
Nottinghamshire. Emerging as the largest party in Cumbria and
Warwickshire. Winning the contests for directly elected Mayor in
Doncaster and North Tyneside.
Bad result: Not winning any of the above."
Labour gained enough seats to help deny the Conservatives control in Gloucestershire or Oxfordshire. But by Harry's measure, this is a poor set of results for them.
"Very good result: Winning a single one of the 37 councils and
mayoralties up for election: their best bet is Cornwall.
Good result: Holding their own in terms of numbers of councillors after heavy losses last year and the year before.
Bad result: The Rallings and Thrasher projections from council by-elections imply a
loss of 130 seats. If they do much worse – say lose half their seats
and/or come in behind UKIP then that really will be a pretty dismal
night for them."
The LibDems didn't gain Cornwall. But they didn't lost over 130 seats, either. Nor did they come in behind UKIP. You would have to conclude this was a fair-to-middling result for them using Harry's criteria.
"Very good result: A very good result would be gains of over 200. If we see this, combined
with huge losses for the Lib Dems, we could see more UKIP councillors
elected than Lib Dems. If that happened then the cliches would be fair.
We will be in a four party system.
Good result: Gains of over 100 would mean we could dust down cliches about
"breaking the mould". Certainly gains on that scale could be regarded by
the Party as a good result.
Bad result: Given the high expectations I think that fewer than, say, 50 gains would be a disappointing result for them."
OK, so let's dust down cliches about breaking the mould.
If Conservative MPs had roughly the same expectations as Harry, then David Cameron's position this evening is a bit safer than it was yesterday morning – not, in my view, that he was in serious danger of a backbench putsch even then.
Lord Ashcroft wrote earlier this afternoon: "Well, that could have been worse. A lot better too, certainly,
but let’s keep things in perspective." I hope Tory backbenchers take his advice, but UKIP's big gains may panic some of them – and are the wild card.