Cumberland and Westmorland & Furness elections provide exaggerated versions of national party swings

Sir Keir Starmer visited Carlisle to celebrate a clear majority on the new Cumberland Council. Credit: ITV News Border

Labour have had a pretty good set of local election results - but hardly anywhere as good as they had in Cumberland.

The Liberal Democrats have had a very good set of results - but hardly anywhere as good as they had in Westmorland & Furness.

The Conservatives have had a pretty bad set of results - but hardly anywhere as bad as they had in both of those new Cumbrian councils.

The elections to the county's two unitary authorities have produced some truly dramatic, exaggerated, and unexpectedly emphatic results.

Many existing county and district councillors were standing in their existing areas, but still there were seismic swings.

Cumberland was expected to be a close-fought race between the Conservatives and Labour. Yet, in an area where the Tories have won the high-profile parliamentary battles for Copeland and Workington in recent years, and gained a lot of ground in council terms too, they got thrashed. Labour won 30 councillors, the Conservatives just 7.

In Westmorland & Furness, where the Tories had previous strength in all three districts, they reached just 11 councillors, behind 15 for Labour and a majority-winning 36 for the Liberal Democrats.

The Conservatives were clearly hampered by the cost of living crisis and covid rule-breaking in Downing Street, but that should surely have been the case everywhere. So why was so much damage done to them in Cumbria particularly?

Did residents resent this council reorganisation and take it out on the government? 

Did the revival of historical county names like 'Cumberland' encourage people to remember old Labour loyalties? 

Or were the recent-years Tory gains in West Cumbria just particularly shallow?

Is the Lib Dems' South Lakes power base simply an unstoppable campaigning machine?

The most memorable suggestion, overheard by a colleague in a local shop this morning, is that Conservative struggles in Carlisle were mainly down to £50,000 having been spent on the astroturf pop-up park in the city centre.

There must be bigger local issues at play. Answers on a tweet, or an email, please.

These results will of course have important consequences in terms of decision-making and priority-setting, as the two new unitary councils take over the running of services across the county next April.To name one example, both sets of councillors will be asked to decide whether they want to push forward with the government's plans for a directly elected mayor for Cumbria, with local powers and funding.

The results are also already being projected forward onto what they might mean for the next general election. With such volatility playing out though, surely drawing too many conclusions is a fool's game.