What Do The U.K. 2016 Election Results Mean For Corbyn's Labour?

03/05/2016_Jeremy Corbyn
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in London, Britain May 3, 2016. What do a major round of elections mean for Corbyn's party? Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

Britain voted on Thursday in local, devolved and mayoral elections, seen as the most significant test of public opinion between the 2015 and 2020 general elections.

But just what has that test shown for the Labour Party, and the left-wing leadership of Jeremy Corbyn? We asked a range of politicians and experts to give us their view.

Pull your socks up time

Chris Leslie, Labour MP and former Shadow Chancellor

Speaking to Josh Lowe

"Overall, we're standing still in some areas but going backwards in others, particularly in Scotland, which is very worrying... It's not good enough if we're going to try and get the Tories out at the next General Election.

"I've never known a period when the Tories have been in such total, shambolic disarray. Just dissect it: cabinet ministers resigning over disability cuts, steel crisis, Panama Papers, you name it… and yet David Cameron's barely broken into a sweat. If we can't make some gains now, when exactly are we going to be doing that? The way I read the electorate's message is they're saying: "Labour: it's pull your socks up time."

"There's a number of challenges that the leadership have now got to confront, I think... Jeremy [Corbyn]'s got to reach out to new support. That means, I think, he's got to change the team around him, he's got to stop hanging out with the wrong crowd, people who are marching with pictures of Stalin and communist hammer and sickle. He's got to knuckle down on the [EU membership] referendum because that is massively important for the whole country, and not do anything to jeopardize a "Remain" vote at all.

"Scotland was supposed to be the great experiment for shifting to this sort of leftward position on higher taxes, anti-Trident, all these things, and I think that hasn't worked. So I hope [the leadership] are in a lessons-learning mode. I haven't heard it yet."

The country are saying sack him

John McTernan, former Chief of Staff to the leader of the Scottish Labour Party

The election results across the country are a disaster for the Labour Party. If the choice is to back Jeremy Corbyn or to sack him, the country are saying sack him.

Supporters of the leader say the party did not lose as many seats as predicted. But just because something isn't an utter disaster it doesn't mean it is not a disaster.

Others say that Labour had a terrible final week with the row over anti-Semitism. But that was caused by one of Corbyn's closest friends and allies.

What is clear is that Labour are on track for another defeat in 2020 if they do not change course—and that starts with changing leader.

UKIP marches on

Rob Ford, Professor of Political Science, University of Manchester

Speaking to Josh Lowe

If you look [at the results] against 2011 or 12 what you very often see is Labour suffering most where UKIP are advancing most. That's largely because UKIP have expanded the playing field compared to where they competed before their surge.

[But] when you look at 2016 against 2015 where UKIP [fielded] lots of councillors in local elections, it's very much the same pattern, the same levels of support.

It's enough to cause a lot of traditional heartland Labour councillors and councils some headaches in that they know UKIP is the local opposition in their ward, they'll probably know of particular polling stations where UKIP completely cleaned up... that's clearly a signal [from] voters who are still discontented.

On the other hand there is no evidence for the claim that [Corbyn's] critics were making that his views on issues like foreign policy and identity and so on would drive more voters to UKIP.

[Still] this idea that Jeremy Corbyn had that he would win all over all these discontented working class voters [and] offer "a new kind of politics;" it doesn't seem like the UKIP voters are convinced on that front as yet.

That's kind of the story of this wave of local elections. It's almost like "as you were a year ago."

It could have been worse

Laurence Janta-Lipinski, Associate Director of Political Research at YouGov.

The local elections are a tricky beast to analyse. Measuring Labour's performance from 2012 (the last time these seats were up for election), Labour has fallen back, albeit not quite as badly as some feared. It has performed worse than it did under Ed Miliband and he was ultimately unable to convert good local election results into a victory at the general election. The narrative Labour has pushed argues that the party should not be judged against how it fared the last time these local elections were fought but rather it should be measured on whether it has gained ground since the general election a year ago. Based on this, the party appears to have gained ground, although 2015 is a very low yardstick.

Fundamentally, the local results do not suggest that Labour is on course for victory at the 2020 general election. As well as its disastrous third place in Scotland, Labour needed to perform much better than it did in England this week if it hopes to govern alone in four years' time.

Labour dropping down to 35 percent of the vote in Wales should lead to a bout of soul-searching. But... the real story of Wales, however, is the rise of UKIP and this could represent a serious threat to Labour in Wales in future

Later on today, all eyes will turn to London. Initial results suggest that, as YouGov predicted, Labour's Sadiq Khan is on course for victory while the party hopes to also increase its share in the Assembly elections.

Labour will be hoping its expectation management will, ultimately, secure Jeremy Corbyn's position as people look past the headline numbers and claim "well, it could have been worse".