Robert Peston

Nine lessons from the elections

Nine lessons from the elections
(Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)
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Here are the big things I learned from Thursday's elections and their aftermath.

1. The Scottish parliament will vote to hold a referendum on independence for Scotland — but the legislation probably won't be introduced till late 2022.

2. The earliest there would be a referendum would be 2023.

3. Boris Johnson's revealed preference is to persuade the people of Scotland of the merits of remaining within the UK, rather than exploiting the Westminster government's 'reserve power' to veto independence.

He wants to avoid what would be widely seen in Scotland as the tyranny of Westminster depriving the Scottish people of a voice on their future. That means a referendum in around three years is likely — which does not mean independence for Scotland is likely.

4. The Labour party can still win elections all over the country where there is a transferable vote system because that sees it pick up the second preferences of voters that support other left-leaning parties, like the Greens and Liberal Democrats. This election-winning potential has been demonstrated by Labour's many important successes in mayoral elections, from the West of England to West Yorkshire.

5. Labour struggles to win elections all over England under the first past the post system for local councils (and the House of Commons) where the Tories are rampant.

6. Labour is stuck as a minority force in Scotland under its version of proportional representation.

7. Keir Starmer faces a momentous choice between trying to rebuild the coalition of voters that traditionally allowed the party to win general elections or whether instead to acknowledge that is a lost cause and work instead towards a coalition with left-leaning parties — namely with the Greens, which are on the rise; the Lib Dems, which are not; and even possibly with the SNP. This will be the most important decision he makes as leader.

8. Starmer still has much to learn about machine politics. His chat with his deputy Angela Rayner on Saturday that stripped her of her role as campaign coordinator and party chairman before knowing what other role to offer her was an unforced and wholly avoidable error.

It precipitated a row with his most important colleague, the elected deputy leader, and caused him a world of unnecessary bad publicity and pain, when Labour could have been pointing to its mayoral victories as evidence it is down but not out. He badly needs a close adviser with more memory and experience of politics at the dirty front line.

9. Many voters, especially older ones, are grateful to Johnson for Brexit and for the vaccine. They are very likely to forget all this before the next election — so he doesn't have long to persuade the new Tory converts in the Midlands and north that he is keeping his promise to 'level' them up, which means improving their livelihoods and prospects. It won't be easy.