BY RAY FLEMING
ON the basis of Britain's local election results: the Conservatives are probably not entitled to claim that they are “on course” to win the next general election despite big gains; Labour has avoided the “rout” that many in the party feared; the Liberal Democrats are correct to call the outcome for them a “mixed bag”; the Scottish Nationalists have only just edged Labour but will probably not be able to form a government; Labour surprisingly held on in Wales.

Party leaders need to be careful about what they say in the wake of local election results. Mr Blair's claim that “these results provide a perfectly good springboard to win in the general election” was obviously not justified ... it would probably be a belly–flop; Mr Cameron's assertion that “we're the one national party speaking up for all of Britain” overlooked his party's continuing failure to make inroads in the North of England and near invisibility in Scotland; Menzies Campbell got nearest the truth when he said he had always known the elections would be “tough”. The statistical curiosity of the elections is that although the Conservatives gained 37 councils and Labour lost eight, the share of the national vote remained almost as it was one year ago, with the Conservatives getting 40 per cent and Labour 27 per cent. All that can be said is that the Conservatives are making some progress but not enough, Labour will hope they have hit rock bottom, and the LibDems have problems.

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