Friday, 4 May 2018
Local Elections – Something for all the Parties to Cheer, Except UKIP
The UKIP vote collapsed completely in local elections in England on Thursday, as was widely predicted, including on this blog, with the Tories being the main beneficiaries, although Labour did take some of this vote. UKIP had a net loss of 123 council seats. All of the other main parties can claim some sort of success, but also had some disappointments with these results.
For Labour, they can point to a net gain of 57 councillors and the party’s best local elections result in London since 1971, gaining councillors in Tory strongholds, but the results in London weren’t as good as had been hoped for. Labour failed to capture the Tory flagship councils of Southwark, Barnet, Westminster and Grenfell council Kensington and Chelsea.
Labour did gain seats on these councils, with the exception of Barnet, where they lost five seats. Barnet is the home of probably the largest Jewish community in the country, and it is impossible to think this poor result was unaffected by the ongoing problems with anti-Semitism in the party.
The Tories did have a net loss of 28 council seats across England, and outside of the big English cities did reasonably well for a mid-term incumbent government, beset with turmoil over Brexit, the Grenfell disaster, the Windrush scandal and a sluggish economic record. They will be relieved that they held onto the London flagship councils, although their overall results in London were not good.
The two main parties both scored 35% of the vote nationally and so I think it is fair to say that it was score draw between them. Labour are saying that their younger supporters tend not to vote in local elections and there is some truth in that. The Tories can say, in the circumstances, that they held off Labour, especially in London, and did reasonably well outside of the big cities.
The Lib Dems had a net gain of 75 council seats and will be extremely pleased with gaining control of Richmond and Kingston councils as well as holding on in Sutton in south west London. A modest improvement for the Lib Dems who gained a national share of the vote of 16%, 3 points up from 2014 when these elections were last fought. It could well be that they gained votes from Labour and Tory Remain voters, but they still have long way to go to reach the heights that they achieved prior to 2010, when they were scoring around 25% nationally.
The Greens likewise may have benefited from Remain voters switching to them, but at 7.5% of the vote (where they stood candidates) it is still two points lower than in 2014. You have to remember though the Greens started to surge in membership around this time and managed to get over one million votes at the 2015 general election. There is no doubt that since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour party, the Greens have lost the momentum of those days.
However, it is a reasonably decent result for the Greens this year, with a net gain of 8 seats, bringing the total of Green councillors in England to, I think, 192 councillors, which is a record high for the party. Highlights include gaining 4 seats on Sheffield council where a tree felling plan has been controversial. The Greens now hold 6 seats in Sheffield. A net gain of four seats in Lambeth, south London, bringing the total to five, is largely connected to controversial housing schemes in the Borough, which amount to social cleansing, by the Labour run council. Four seats were also gained on Richmond council, which appears to justify the local deal with the Lib Dems, who took control of the council.
On a personal note, I stood as a ‘paper’ candidate for the Greens in the ward where I live, in Haringey, north London. Without even a hint of a campaign in the ward, I managed to get 303 votes (11%), beating two Tory candidates into the process, but was miles from getting elected. Even I can claim a small victory in this election. Unfortunately, we didn’t win any council seats in Haringey.
All figures quoted here are at time of writing and may change slightly.