LBC Views: As local election results trickle in Starmer has done Boris a huge favour

6 May 2022, 10:48

As the local election results come trickling in, David Mellor gives his LBC Views
As the local election results come trickling in, David Mellor gives his LBC Views. Picture: LBC

By David Mellor

I hope Boris Johnson will drink a bumper glass of the rubbish red wine he likes tonight, and toast Kier Starmer. And maybe an even bigger hunk of chorizo, because Starmer has done Boris a huge favour.

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In the results we have so far – approaching half the English councils that voted yesterday – the Tories have done badly. The more affluent and well educated the voters the worse it has been for the Tories.

But the scale of intelligent voters’ repudiation of Boris in the south has been disguised by Labour’s poor performance. Voters looking for a bucket to spit in to express their contempt for all things Boris haven’t done the damage they could and should, because this protest vote has been split between Labour, the Lib Dems, and up north, though we don’t yet know the full extent of it, the Greens.

In London, Westminster was lost for the first time in the 58 years of its existence. The Mayfair ward now has Labour councillors. Barnet, Mrs Thatcher’s old borough, also deserted the Tories for the first time, suggesting that Jewish voters have forgiven Starmer for Corbyn’s many and various misdeeds.

Particularly poignant for me was the loss of Wandsworth. Because 44 years ago I was in Wandsworth’s Town Hall as the recently selected Parliamentary Candidate for Labour-held Putney. That night a clapped out old gang of Labour loony lefties and fellow travellers were swept aside, not to return for a couple of generations. But now they’re back, thanks in large measure to Boris.

I gritted my teeth as in a corner of Wandsworth Town Hall, Sadiq Khan held court.

Why do I blame Boris, I hear you ask. Well, the outgoing Tory leader in Wandsworth, my old friend RaviGovindia did, so why shouldn’t I.

In the past, Wandsworth Tories survived unpopular Tory governments by focusing on local services. And they tried to do it this time, printing their literature on green paper. But this time even the exceptional service offered to the people of Wandsworth by their council wasn’t enough.

A whole host of Boris inspired things from Brexit to Partygate stuck in the craw of the voters, so this time they were prepared to vote against their own financial interests, and elect a ragtag and bobtail Labour council, likely to hit them hard in the pockets, just to rid themselves of the frustrations of all they deplored about Boris’s performance.

Ironically though, Starmer’s failures overnight may be to his advantage further down the pike.

Ten per cent inflation is almost upon us.

It hits the Government amidships when thanks to Sunak’s Boris-inspired spendthrift policies, the public coffers are bare.

The consequences of cost of living rises on ordinary families will lead to siren calls for increased public expenditure, but where is it to come from beyond yet further repudiation by Boris of the Tories reputation as a low tax party.

Over the next few months, if he survives, Boris will stumble from a good war to a bad peace. On economic policy, Boris isn’t a Conservative. His answer to any problem is a Labour one; spend, spend, and then spend some more.

With the cost of servicing our burgeoning national debt, already at £80 billion, and likely to rise sharply, there is no way Boris’s approach can be a success. Anyway, it’s been tried before. If chucking public money at intractable problems had been the answer, there’d be statues to Harold Wilson and Denis Healey on every village green, but I know of none.

I don’t anticipate any for Boris either.

44 years ago I looked forward to getting elected to parliament, and to playing a minor role in a reformist administration under Margaret Thatcher that actually did totally transform this country for the better.

What do I look forward to today? Best not to ask.