Local elections are often the canary in the mine for British politics. Trends which play out nationally become visible earlier on in the smaller scale contests which take place in districts and counties.
We’ll be considering the results of yesterday’s metro mayor contests in more detail elsewhere, but there are some broader trends already visible from the county council elections which took place at the same time:
- UKIP is history: UKIP’s vote has collapsed across England, with the party wiped out in counties including Hampshire, Essex and West Sussex. The Conservatives have been the overwhelming beneficiary of these wipeouts.
- Labour is not far behind: There are some areas where Labour has benefited from the collapse in support for UKIP – making gains for example in Margate and Ramsgate. Generally, though, the results are dismal for Labour: the party has lost five councils, and shed seats in the Midlands and Wales, where the Conservatives are pitching hard for their votes. Hardly a good showing for an Opposition party hoping to make gains.
- A lot of this is to do with Jeremy Corbyn: Anyone who has spent a wet Saturday trying to convince voters in marginal Ilford to vote Labour will tell you that Corbyn is a problem: ‘I like our MP but I’m not sure about our leader’ is a common refrain. Labour’s poor showing suggests that voters are not in a mood to forget about its Leader and focus on the local contest in question.
- Talk of a Liberal Democrat revival is premature: The Liberal Democrats have not performed as well as they needed to make the gains they hope for at the General Election. Stephen Williams’ failure to make the second round of voting for the West of England mayoralty in an area where the party is hoping to make gains in June tops off a night which saw it lose, rather than gain, seats.
- The impact of Brexit on how people vote is not straightforward: The Liberal Democrats’ decision to cast themselves as the party of diehard remainers may have had unintended consequences. In parts of the Leave-dominated south coast where the Liberal Democrats have been the traditional opposition, individual Liberal Democrat candidates have seen their share of the vote slashed. In Fareham, for example, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Porchester saw his majority fall from 1265 to 114 votes.
- We can’t read too much into the mayoral elections: One of the lessons from mayoral elections in London is that voters are quite happy to support a candidate from one party for Mayor, and another in council or Parliamentary elections: 61% of Liberal Democrats think Sadiq Khan is doing a good job as Mayor of London, for example. Labour should be careful about taking too much comfort about the mayoral results which have gone its way.
All of this bodes well for the Conservatives in June.
We are busy compiling the local election result reports and analysing the impact on our clients’ projects. Get in touch if you want insight into your area of interest.