BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK: Politics  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Friday, 3 May, 2002, 06:08 GMT 07:08 UK
Mixed bag for leaders
A Labour candidate ticks off a voter at the polling station
More than 22m people were able to vote

Tony Blair was breathing an early sigh of relief on Friday after he was spared any serious pain in the local elections.

The Labour vote held up well in the polls, despite fears that disillusion and apathy would hit them hard.

There was some cheer for Iain Duncan Smith whose Tory party staged a minor recovery in London.


Two worrying signs - the election of far-right BNP candidates in Burnley and a man in a monkey suit in Hartlepool

But overall, his party failed to pull off the sort of result required to suggest it is finally recovering after two humiliating general election trouncings.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats were ready to celebrate yet another decent, if not sensational local performance.

But, as all parties prepared to claim victory, there were two worrying signs - the election of far-right BNP candidates in Burnley and a man in a monkey suit in Hartlepool.

They may be fringe events, but they have given all the major parties something to think about as they start their post-election analysis.

Cheering supporters

The prime minister will be particularly delighted that voters do not appear to have used the local poll to express serious dissatisfaction with his government.

Similarly he will be also pleased at the turnout which, while still far from satisfactory, suggests the years of deep apathy may be ending.

Despite a second landslide general election victory, there have been persistent signs that voters were both disappointed with Labour's performance and disillusioned with the political process in general and politicians in particular.

The downside for the prime minister, however, will be suggestions that it was Gordon Brown wot won it.

There appears little doubt that his controversial, tax-and-spend budget not only boosted interest in politics, but managed to re-engage core Labour voters.

He may have spooked some middle England voters whose pay packets will be hit by his tax increases.

Fresh signs of life

But traditional, Labour heartlands voters appear to have been brought back into the fold.

Still, with another four years to go to the next general election, ministers will be delighted that their worst fears do not appear to have been borne out.

Iain Duncan Smith appears to have less to smile about.

He would have liked to have seen a real advance for the Tories, who are just beginning to show fresh signs of life after five years in the wilderness.

But the results suggest that revival is still some way off.

Too early to judge

The Tories may have eased into a slight lead overall, but they are far short of the turnaround they were hoping for.

The party will take some comfort from a smattering of victories, particularly in London, but there will be an air of disappointment in central office that they could not manage more.

Clearly it is far too early to claim the results give a definitive verdict on Mr Duncan Smith's leadership.

He has been in the job less than a year and would be the first to accept that he has a long battle ahead of him rebuilding the party from the ground up.

Charles Kennedy will be happy the Liberal Democrats gained some seats, but disappointed they did not do better.

BNP election

He and his party had the best general election campaign last year and have been advancing since 1997.

But Mr Kennedy is also experienced enough to know that whatever advances his party makes in the local polls, there is always the likelihood they will slip back in general elections.

But one thing all the major parties will be disappointed about will be the election of the far right BNP in Burnley.

Unexpected expected

All the mainstream leaders had urged people to go out and vote to stop the BNP, particularly in the wake of Jean Marie Le Pen's first round success in the French Presidential election.

Unlike Le Pen, the BNP has never been more than a fringe group in British politics.

All the analysing of the results, however, must come with a giant health warning against using them to predict the outcome of a general election campaign.

With up to four years to go before that poll, virtually anything can happen and only the unexpected can be guaranteed.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rory McClean
"In Stevenage the all-postal ballot has nearly doubled the turnout"
Labour Party Chairman, Charles Clarke
"I do not call yesterday's results a triumph"
Conservative Shadow Cabinet member, Theresa May
"Overall it has been a night of mixed results"
Liberal Democrat's Treasury spokesman Matthew Taylor
"The BNP only won two seats out of the 6000 contested"

Key stories

Analysis

A-Z OF COUNCILS

HAVE YOUR SAY

AUDIO VIDEO
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


E-mail this story to a friend



© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes