Labour and Tories think a nine-point lead is enough for a Starmer majority

Local election results could point to a comfortable majority for the Labour leader in the upcoming general election, ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana reports

At every local election, the experts crunch the numbers and come up with a projected national share to help map the results onto what they might mean in a general election.

Sir John Curtice is giving Labour a nine-point lead on 34% to the Conservatives' 25%. Sky are projecting a similar gap.

And the conclusion they are drawing? That this nine-point lead is not enough to hand Keir Starmer a majority.

But are they right?

Speaking to sources it is clear to me that neither Labour nor the Conservatives any longer believe the calculations, which are based on what happened in 2019.

I've been told that Labour's director of campaigns, Morgan McSweeney, now believes that a six-point lead is what is needed for the party to secure a majority.

But insiders on the Tory side go even further.

I've been told they believe that Labour being just over five points ahead would be enough for Starmer to enter Downing Street with more than half of Parliament's 650 MPs.

Those views are some way from the narrative that Starmer needs a 12.5% swing to secure a majority of just one.

So, if they are right (and plenty of experts disagree), what has changed since 2019 to make Labour and the Tories believe Starmer's mountain is less steep than we thought?

Two things.

First, progress in Scotland, with Labour now gunning for 20-plus seats, when at one point some in the party felt they needed to write off wins north of the border.

But the other is about Labour's traditional vote.

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Early on in Starmer's leadership it was decided that the most urgent target for the party was to reach out to its old base: those who disproportionately voted leave in the 2016 EU referendum.

This was not just driven by the need to win back Red Wall seats but also because the distribution of these voters means that winning back their votes would be more efficient for Labour.

Party strategists would describe this as expanding the vote - rather than pivoting - but in reality, polls do suggest that Labour may be losing some of the more liberal, remain voters piled up in more urban seats and winning more in towns across the North and Midlands.

The New Statesman's George Eaton has written about this issue, pointing out that Labour won 355 seats in 2005 - a majority of 66 - with 35.2% of the vote, while in 2017 it won 262 seats with 40%.

The difficulty with this one - it is hard to test whether McSweeney is right - is that we need a general election to prove it one way or another.

But if he and Tory strategists are correct, then today's results would point to a comfortable majority for Starmer.

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