AS THE dust settles over last week’s elections here in Sussex, what, if anything, do they tell us about the current state of national politics?

It’s always tempting to project these sort of results on to Parliament estimating how many MPs each party might win – tempting but pointless. It’s pointless because the elections only take place in certain areas, and, as it says on the tin, they are local and local issues can make a big difference.

What we do know is that, at this stage, neither of the two main parties are on course to win an overall majority at the general election, and one reason for that is because it looks like there is something of a Liberal Democrat revival under way, with the Greens also doing well.

There’s been much talk – possibly too much – about the Conservatives’ “red wall” in the Midlands and the North. But it’s their “blue wall” here in the South East that isn’t looking as unbreachable as it used to.

By way of a reminder: Labour took Worthing, for the first time ever, took full control of Crawley, reduced the Tory majority in Adur to three and even won in Rottingdean, another first ever, but in Hastings Labour did badly, losing three seats to the Greens which deprived them of control of the council.

So where do the main parties stand now?

For Conservatives hoping to see a change of direction, or to get a sense of a new lease of life after the disappointing local election results, the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday outlining their plans for the new parliamentary session, must have been a bit of a disappointment. As most commentators, even Conservative ones, agreed, the speech was more about quantity rather than quality. They promised 38 bills, which is a lot, probably too many to get through in one session, but there was no overall narrative, apart from continuing their “war on woke”. The lack of anything substantial about tackling the cost-of-living crisis was, to say the least, surprising.

Labour should still have been basking in the glow of the election results which saw the Tories lose almost 500 seats, far more than predicted, but instead they found themselves wallowing in the gloom of “beergate” – Sir Keir Starmer’s ill-fated beer and curry meal break while campaigning in Durham last year.

On the face of it the omens look bad for Labour. After weeks of pressure from the Daily Mail and some Tory MPs, Durham police announced they were now investigating the Labour leader for an alleged breach of the lockdown rules.

But Starmer surprised the political world by announcing that if he received a fixed penalty notice he would resign. The move both showed up the failure of the Prime Minister to do likewise but also suggested that he was confident that he would be found not to have committed an offence.

So how is this all going to affect Labour and the Conservatives?

There are many big differences between the two parties and none more so than in the way they deal with leaders who are appearing to fail. The Tories are ruthless. Once MPs realise they have a loser at the helm they move against him (or her). This has been the fate of almost all recent leaders.

Labour is different. Whether it is because it is too loyal, too weak or too democratic, it never dispenses with leaders even when it looks like they are taking the party over the electoral precipice – Michael Foot and Jeremy Corbyn are two such examples.

I’m not suggesting that this is the case with Starmer but, on last week’s showing, he’s not yet cutting through to the public, hence, if he is issued with a fixed penalty notice and is forced to resign, it might be bad for him personally but not necessarily for the party.

While he has done well politically in moving Labour on from Corbynism and in parliamentary terms he’s been regularly pounding Johnson at the Dispatch Box – he is yet to make a real impact with the British public.

If he does decide to step down and there is a leadership contest, there is no shortage of candidates likely to give the Conservatives a run for their money – women such as Lisa Nandy or Rachel Reeves, former minsters like Yvette Cooper or David Lammy and outsiders like Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting or Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham (though he’d need to find a seat first).

The irony of the Mail’s attempt to hunt down Starmer is that if they are, in their terms, successful, they will have deprived the Tories of the one person they were confident they could beat – with or without Boris Johnson at the helm.

So maybe they will have to learn lesson of the old Chinese proverb “be careful what you wish for”.