Unsuprisingly, there has been some debate over the last few days on Labour's performance on Thursday. The Shadow Chancellor said that the "experts" predicted a 175-200 English council seat loss for Labour, so losing less than 20 represented a good result. Others suggested that the opposition, a year after a general election, should be gaining many hundreds of seats from a government that is deeply unpopular.
The Rallings and Thrasher central forecast was for Labour to lose 150 seats on the English councils. On this measure Labour did indeed do better than expected, but the expectation was for Labour to do very bad indeed. As it was it was just quite bad, and in reality it was because the Conservatives had equally poor results that Labour didn't lose more councillors and councils. The adjusted national share of the vote was 31% for Labour and 30% for the Tories.
Whilst this particular election was a comparison with a high tide mark in 2012, that election produced an adjusted national share of 38% for Labour and 31% for the Conservatives. So a 7% Labour drop since 2012 - Conservatives' 1% drop is obviously not good for them, but not much of a change. I would personally have said that Labour should have been looking to gain 200-300 seats (not the 500+ demanded by some commentators) as the previous results were a high mark to beat; therefore losing any councillors at all would represent a poor result.
(BTW the Lib Dems had a NSV of 16% in 2012 and 15% this time round; UKIP wasn't measured in 2012)
Given the fairly poor result in England, the loss of majority in the assembly in Wales, and very poor result in Scotland (which was worse than expected) the considered opinion was that Labour had had a pretty bad night, and all the statistics actually back that up - indeed if the Tories had only a slightly better night in England, then there wouldn't even be a debate about it!