Elections - do they matter?

They were only local elections.

Fewer than one in three of those with a vote bothered to use it. And there are three years until the next general election. So, some will claim, the results are without national consequence. They'd be wrong. They will have an immediate impact.

Victories in the South, in the East and in the Midlands will allow Ed Miliband to claim that his party is on its way back as a credible challenger for power. His leadership - questioned just a few weeks ago - will be secure.

The Tories heavy losses have already led to calls on David Cameron to lead a more Conservative and rather less Liberal government

This just as Nick Clegg will face demands to distance himself from the Conservatives after Lib Dem results worse than any in the party's history.

By tonight Boris Johnson may put a smile back on Tory faces and Alex Salmond may dampen Labour spirits - but overall these elections are a recipe for renewed Labour confidence and greater Coalition tensions.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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