By Ray Fleming PSEPHOLOGISTS are going to have a fine time poring over the results of last Thursday's local elections in Britain and interpreting the implications for the next general election. There is enough conflicting evidence in the figures to support almost any conclusion but the most important may be those showing the share of the national vote taken by the three main parties in the local elections of 2002, 2004 and last Thursday. Respectively, Labour took 32, 26 and 26 per cent; Conservatives 35, 38 and 40; Liberal Democrats 27, 30 and 27. The most obvious conclusion to be drawn from those figures is that the Conservatives are making a steady recovery; however, it has to be remembered that just one year after Labour's low 26 per cent in 2004 it won a general election with a comfortable, if reduced, majority. That is why the “melt-down” headlines about Labour's performance on Thursday may be exaggerated, especially taking into account the very negative atmosphere surrounding Tony Blair's government as voters went to the polls. For the Conservatives, the result will certainly help to build confidence for the future particularly since the figures show that they pulled away from the Liberal Democrats whose 2004 success may have been due principally to the protest vote against the Iraq war. Statistics can only tell us so much about politics. There is a fascinating battle in prospect which will be fought not only between the two main parties but also within the Labour party itself.