Saturday, 5 May 2018

Why the Media are Saying the Local Election Results are a Stalemate

I keep on seeing posts about the Local Council Elections, attacking the media for reporting that the results have been disappointing for Labour. They say "Labour won 1,000 more seats than the Conservatives" so therefore "The BBC is BIASED!!!!!" for calling the election a stalemate.

So, let me sort this out - because the media, particularly the BBC, are not biased - at least, they are not as biased as the people who tell you that the media are biased.

Let's look at the figures for the Local Election in England, 2018:

                      Overall    Difference (+/-)

Labour           2,350       +77

Conservative 1,332        -33

Lib Dem        536          +75

UKIP             3              -123

Green            39            +8

So, that is pretty good, right? Labour got over a thousand more councillors than the Conservatives! OOOO Jer-e-my Cooooor-byn!

Well - sort of. They mostly held what they had and made some modest gains. Labour won Tower Hamlets and Plymouth, but lost Redditch to the Conservatives, and a couple of other councils to No Overall Control.

They gained about the same number of councillors as the Lib Dems, who are slowly rebuilding after getting torn apart for going into coalition. You do not hear anyone saying that the Lib Dems had a brilliant election.

But, still, these figures look good. They are by far the largest party - THE TORY BBC ARE LYING ABOUT JEZZA!!! - but wait... wait...: this is not a nationwide election: in this election, Labour were defending their Metropolitain strongholds of Newcastle, Sunderland, Gateshead, Liverpool, Manchester and inner-city London. If the Labour party is anything, it is the traditional party of the people in these areas. 

These are Labour seats, they have always been and they do not seem to want to change. 

Conversely, you could argue that Labour did not have much space to grow.

Looked at in isolation, the results of 2018 look good for Labour. Looked at by someone who has never looked at any other local election results, they might look phenomenal. But let's look at the results from May 5th 2017, just to place these numbers in some sort of context:

UK Local Elections 2017

                     Overall    Difference (+/-)

Labour           1,152        -382

Conservative  1,899        +563

Lib Dem        441            -42

UKIP             1               -145

Green           40             +6

As you can see, the +/- column has a lot more movement. These numbers were very promising for the Tories going into the General Election a month later, as a dysfunctional Labour Party seemed to be bleeding-out. 

This is what a convincing win in the local elections looks like - not double-digit gains, but gains in the hundreds; not consolidation of power and marginal gains, but taking hundreds of seats from the opposition. 

It is clear from these numbers that the re-absorbing of the directionless husk of UKIP benefitted the Tories massively in 2017. To be fair, that was the spin from Labour at the time and they were probably right. In 2018, with Labour's more pronounced pro-Brexit stance, this effect has been nullified.

This is why the BBC is not calling the 2018 elections a massive success for the Labour party - because, in the context of local elections in general, and this one in particular, 2018 was a stalemate. 

The argument from my Corbynista friends is that he is on the cusp of riding a wave of popularity into Downing Street, and the BBC are deliberately misreporting his incredible successes. 

This is not true. 

We know what it looks like when a politician is about to ride a tidal-wave of popular feeling into power, and it does not look like the Local Elections of 2018, or 2017. It looks like 1996:

UK Local Elections 1996

                      Overall    Difference (+/-)

Labour           1,744        +466

Conservative 518           -577

Lib Dem        641          +150

An absolute shellacking, a confident staging post on Tony Blair's rise to power. This is what it looks like to be on your way to Downing Street.

The BBC are not lying to you. The 2018 Local Elections were a stalemate, as you can see when you place the numbers in context. The BBC are doing you the service of telling you the truth. In general, journalists want to be right more than they want any party to win or lose. 

The Deep Left are lying to you. Jeremy Corbyn for PM are lying to you. Peter Stefanovic is lying to you. The Canary are lying to you. We Demand UK are lying to you. They are partisan groups and people who want their guy to win - which is all fine and dandy, until they start presenting you with Alternative Facts, and trying to convince you that honest journalists and analysts are conniving and conspiring to trick us, the public, with their phony 'expertise'. 

Their Alternative World made of Alternative Facts is a paranoid place, where every paid reporter is a faceless agent of a malevolent power. It is good news indeed that The Deep Left's shrill Facebook posts are baseless; it is wonderful that The Canary is simply mistaken in its view of the BBC as a Tory-run propaganda machine. 

There is no 'They' controlling 'The MSM'. Peter Sissons isn't a giant lizard. Moira Stewart's honeyed tones are not full of deceit. The Jews aren't conspiring to steal the world away. GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE OVEN! IT'S OK! IT'S OK.

With notable exceptions (e.g. The Daily Mail), journalists just go to work and do their jobs and get published and airtime through their predictions and the quality of their commentary. 

And, of course, who their fathers are. 

Afterall, if "Daddy knows the Queen!" isn't a good reason to give a chap a job, I don't know what is.

So it is that the BBC does have its problems. They do show bias. But these biases are implicit, unthought and only partially blinding to them. 

To quote W.B. Yeats:

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity"

So it is for news sources. 

It is best to avoid the ranting preachers of paranoid fantasies, the delusional visionaries whose view MUST BE THE TRUTH!!! 

I trust the bloodless analyst who has been around the block, the jaded journo who has been hurt before and the geeks with their spreadsheets.

I just hang-out with the revolutionary zealots because they're more fun.


  1. Adding to this: it genuinely has been Labour's best local election results *IN LONDON* since 1971. Of course this was reported sans the *IN LONDON* part by Owen Jones and others right after the results came out. This was apparently an honest mistake on Jones's part since he later corrected himself, but this 'fact' has taken on a life of its own online.

  2. Thank you for speaking reason. I just try to keep my mouth shut (or rather, fingers off the keyboard) when my otherwise well meaning and intelligent friends go over to the dark side of hard left conspiracy theory - that the bbc is out to get Jeremy. That anyany criticism of him is a smear with so little truth that it might as well be a lie. I just don't share their (uncritical) support of him.

    1. Thanks. "That any criticism of him is a smear with so little truth that it might as well be a lie." That's as well-worded assessment of the situation as you could hope to read.