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Why Tories and Labour should be petrified by local elections

The Tories lost over 1,000 councillors in Thursday's local election. Credit: PA

These are the most extraordinary local elections of my lifetime. The Tories’ loss of more than 1,000 councillors is way worse than the gloomiest projections.

And yet Labour should be as depressed as the government because the fact that it is losing more than 100 seats, and its share of the vote is broadly the same as the Tories' is devastating for it, when arguably this is the most shambolic government in modern history and the comparator elections are the 2015 Ed Miliband lowpoint.

And although Brexit is one explanation for both parties’ poor performance, for Labour in particular it is a million miles from being the whole explanation - for the definitional reason that Labour isn’t in charge of Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn in Trafford where Labour won - but overall it was not a good night for his party. Credit: PA

Labour campaigners - many of them - tell me that Jeremy Corbyn has gone back to being a negative on the doorstep, maybe because of the antisemitism taint, in part.

Of course Corbyn can switch from liability to asset again, as he did in 2017. But with much of the left fed up at his refusal to wholeheartedly back a confirmatory Brexit referendum, his position is not as secure as it was.

And what many of them will fear is that if he does what he has just said, which is to work now to secure Brexit in the coming weeks, what he will in practice do is engineer a Tory revival rather than a Labour one, since it is Brexit uncertainty that is the big weight crushing Tory popularity.

The Vince Cable led-Lib Dems gained about 600 seats. Credit: PA

It is amazing that in 2017 we returned briefly to a two-party state, with Labour and Tories collectively winning more than 80% of the vote in May’s ill-starred general election. Today they have less than 60% per cent of the vote, and we have a hundred-party state - with the Lib Dems and Greens winning circa 600 and 150 seats respectively, and non-aligned councillors picking up 550 seats.

And that is all before the Brexit Party, UKIP and Change UK get their shows on the road for the EU elections.

This is anything but politics as usual. This is a Brexit-and-populism earthquake of a once-in-a-century magnitude.

And since it has only just started, months and probably years will pass before a stable new landscape is formed.