Last Saturday, we reported that the local elections were a moment of danger as well as opportunity for Keir Starmer.
The Labor leader needed to show that he was making sufficient progress to prove to his party that we were on course to lead them to victory at the next general election.
With a significant chunk of the results now in, it’s pretty clear that while Labor has firmly established itself as the natural party of government in London, that’s certainly not the case in other parts of the country.
Senior party figures were, naturally, keen to highlight the night’s successes, such as the victories in true blue Westminster and Wandsworth, as well as the impressive win on the new Cumberland Council.
“It’s good, solid progress, especially when you consider we were absolutely smashed in 2019,” one shadow cabinet member told HuffPost UK.
“We’re set up now to go after the Tories in the seats they still hold in inner London, and we’ve stemmed the tide in the Red Wall. We’re also hoping to be second in Scotland, which obviously isn’t where we want to be, but again it’s progress on where we’ve been in the recent past.”
But others were also left underwhelmed by the party’s showing in the Midlands and north of England, where they will have to make major gains to win the next election.
Indeed, polling expert Professor John Curtice pointed out that the party’s support in the Red Wall areas they lost to the Tories at the last general election is actually down on 2018, when the council seats there were last contested.
“For a party that’s looking to make progress… this wasn’t quite the degree of progress that they might have anticipated,” he told the BBC.
So how might Starmer respond to the message sent out by the electorate last night?
One senior Labor figure said: “I suspect that the internal response will be that this shows why Labor needs to target its entire strategy even more narrowly on 45 to 65-year-old Tory-voting men in Red Wall seats.”
Overall, Starmer is likely to be quietly satisfied with his night’s work. But with many in the party still yet to be convinced by his election-winning qualities of him, it’s fair to say that the jury is still out on whether he’s the man to lead Labor back to government.