Local elections 2017: What this could mean for the general election

Ukip's collapse could have 'significant impact' on next month's ballot, giving Theresa May cause to feel confident

Voting, polling station
Counters tally the votes in the West Midlands
(Image credit: Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)

"If Theresa May ever had any doubts about the wisdom of calling a snap general election," writes the Financial Times, "they will have been dispelled overnight."

As ballot papers in yesterday's council elections continue to be counted, it is clear the Conservatives have made big gains at the local level in a night that saw Labour take a bruising and Ukip unceremoniously swept out of power across their former heartlands.

Labour lost dozens of seats, including former strongholds in Wales and the north of England, while the Liberal Democrats' dream of an anti-Brexit surge fizzled out as the party's handful of gains were outnumbered by losses.

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For The Guardian, the Conservatives' robust performance shows the party is "reaping the rewards" of its tough talk towards the EU, and can expect to replicate that success at the national level.

However, this strategy is not without its risk, the paper adds. Theresa May's "perceived shift to the right" leaves centrist Tory voters vulnerable to poaching from the left, especially if opposition parties are able to make headway with the much-discussed idea of a "progressive alliance".

Traditionally, the ruling party tends to underperform at local elections, but if the results published so far hold up across the country "this will be the third year in a row that the opposition party has made a net loss in council elections", says Sky News.

But even as ejected Labour councillors licked their wounds, it was a worse night for Ukip, who almost faced being wiped off the electoral map. Political scientist John Curtice told the BBC that the result meant Ukip have lost "everything they've been trying to defend".

Even those who have been instrumental in the party's rise seem to believe the game is up. One-time party leadership contender Steven Woolfe admitted he would now vote Conservative over Ukip, while a tweet from defector MP Douglas Carswell indicated his former party had served its purpose and it was now time to "go home".

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At the 2015 general election, Ukip won 3.8 million votes, 12.6 per cent of the total, but Sky News' election analyst Michael Thrasher now predicts Ukip's share of the national vote could fall as low as three per cent on 8 June.

Even more importantly, the outcome of yesterday's vote shows that the voters Labour lost to Ukip are now flocking to the Tories rather than returning to Labour, a shift that could have a "significant impact" on the general election, Thrasher writes.

However, the temptation to extrapolate local election results to predict the outcome of the general election must be indulged with a pinch of salt.

According to a paper by former BBC head of political research David Cowling, which was unearthed by the Guardian, anywhere between 11 and 21 per cent of voters who participate in both local and general elections will vote for a different party in each.

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