Labour looks set to turn tracts of England red on May 3

Chris Moncrieff
Chris Moncrieff

The Tories are already bracing themselves for some catastrophic results at next month’s local elections. But, conversely, this poll could well provide the beleaguered Jeremy Corbyn with his biggest personal boost since he became leader of the Labour Party.

Equally, dire results could lead to further mumbling among Tory MPs about the quality of Theresa May’s leadership.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (right) and the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (left) canvassing in Chelsea, London ahead of the local elections.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (right) and the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (left) canvassing in Chelsea, London ahead of the local elections.

But, be warned: Local authority polls rarely reflect with any accuracy at all the prevailing national mood of politics, whatever the victorious candidates may tell you after the event.

These elections are invariably used by supporters of the prevailing Government to deliver a ‘buck-up-your-ideas’ kick in the pants, painful enough to give ministers a warning that they’d better do better – or else – without actually toppling them.

So, before the first week of May is out, we are likely to see considerable tracts of the land on the political map changed from blue to red, as Labour seem likely to gain seat after seat, largely at the expense of the Tories. And it could not come at a more opportune time for Mr Corbyn, who’s at present under attack, not only from his political opponents, but from substantial numbers of his own MPs over his alleged anti-semitism, something he fiercely denies.

We shall be told by Labour that if a general election were to be held straight away, they would command a massive overall majority in the House of Commons based on these results. But you don’t have to believe that. It is hypothetical and probably wrong anyway - and in any event, there is unlikely to be a general election for three or four years yet.

What is the situation on the ground? Labour already controls most London boroughs. Polls suggest May 3 could see them hoovering up most of the few authorities in the capital under Tory rule. Anger over Brexit could be a factor here. Top Tory grandees are already expressing deep anxiety and publicly warning of very bad news for them at this election. This, as I say, is the normal fate of a national governing party - but it could be far worse this time.

The elections will be held within England, in all 32 London boroughs, 34 metropolitan boroughs, 68 district and borough councils and 17 unitary authorities. There will also be direct elections for the Mayoralties of Hackney, Lewisham, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Watford. Some 4,000 seats will be up for grabs. Also some leafy, rural areas, always considered as impregnable Tory strongholds, could be snapped up by Labour.

Altogether a grim prospect for Mrs May. The outcome could have a bearing on her political future. And what of the Liberal Democrats? The party came close to being wiped off the face of Westminster in the past two years, but the gruff leader, Sir Vince Cable, sees sunlit uplands ahead. They will probably pick up a few seats here and there, but as for the massive revival he hopes for? Forget it.

Organisations which already receive wads of taxpayers’ money (think the arts, for instance) are always, like Oliver Twist, demanding more. Local authorities, constantly moaning they are strapped for cash seem, however, to find ways of spending what they have on frivolous things.

Why, for example, was singer Nadine Coyle (no, me neither) paid £14,000 by St Helens to grace the switch-on of their Christmas lights? And why did Cheryl Klein get £9,000 for appearing at Chorley Flower Show?

These are just two examples among many where obscure ‘celebrities’ are paid huge amounts of public money just to cut a tape or throw a switch. These and other authorities should stop this ludicrous waste of funds before they try to dig even deeper into what they consider the bottomless pockets of the British taxpayer.

A growing number of people are beginning to suspect the Government has been rushing to judgement over the culprits of the nerve gas affair, pointing the finger – not just of suspicion but of certitude – at Vladimir Putin.

But even though all the factors point to a criminal act by the Russian Government, all the evidence is purely circumstantial and would not stand a chance in a British court of law.

The Prime Minister’s first comments on this affair were at least measured but firm, and sparked off a rash of expulsions of Russian diplomats from embassies around the world. Now, the fact that Porton Down cannot identify the source of the gas has, in a roundabout way, had the effect of partially endorsing Jeremy Corbyn’s view that the Government should produce some hard and precise evidence before they jump to conclusions. The truth is, they haven’t got any.

One senior Tory today accused the Government – and notably the garrulous Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson – of “ratcheting up animosities” without any real basis for doing so. This Tory said it was quite possibly a freelance operation.

Meanwhile, the British have refused the Russian request to join in the investigations. I am not quite sure why, but they probably have good reason to,

Meanwhile suspicion, quite properly, still rests on Putin but it is by no means an open and shut case

Jeremy Corbyn as a fashion icon? It is hard to believe. However, when I was out and about the other day, I saw a number of young ladies wearing the kind of peak caps that Corbyn is invariably depicted as wearing, the sort favoured once by Chinese leaders, bearing a red star at the front.

It is certainly a far cry from that day when then Prime Minister, David Cameron, told Corbyn in the Commons to go out and buy a decent suit.

So watch out David Beckham. Jeremy is breathing down your neck.