With it being nearly a month since the local elections, it is time to reflect and look back at the results and what they mean for the country as a whole. From this, who were the real losers and winners of these elections.
Suffice to say it was not either of the major two parties. Despite high expectations for Labour they did only partially well. While still winning these elections, they did not have the landslide expected, with an increase of only 79 councillors and no increase in council seats. Meanwhile, attempts by Labour to wins seats like Wandsworth and Barnet went up in flames with the Conservative safe seats taking their toll. Most conversely, despite the high levels of anger aimed at the Kensington council over Grenfell and a political switch to a Labour MP in charge of the area, the Tories were still able to win said seat regardless.
So why did Labour not do very well this time round? Various reasons seem to have not helped, with areas like Barnet (which have a prominent Jewish community) regaining a Conservative majority because of Labour’s antisemitism scandal. Meanwhile, tribal voting in areas like Kensington kept the Conservatives in power in their councils. To add to this, one potential factor was that the youth vote that helped last year’s election gain strong results for Labour, even if they didn’t win, was not out in force in this election. Labour members admitted that one potential problem for the party that election would have been the low turnout among the youth, and that seems to have transpired, especially given the low turnout in general that accompanies local elections. This is only speculation of course, but hopefully helps some to understand why Labour were not the powerhouse they were expected to be this time.
Overall, while Labour did perfectly well (and doing the best in London for decades) they didn’t achieve the massive sweep they were expecting and fell short of their 2014 results, with those results including them gain nearly 5 times as many councillors and gained councils whereas here they didn’t gain any.
Maybe Corbyn mania is starting to die. This can only be a good thing.
Meanwhile the Conservatives held a huge sigh of relief. They didn’t get the massive crushing many were expecting. And while they lost 33 councillors and 3 councils, it was not the massive defeat expected, nor was it their results at the 2014 elections whereby they had lost 11 councils and 236 councillors. Their maintaining of safe seats and specific wards (like mine of Enfield Town Ward) was a major plus, meanwhile some occasional gains from Labour (like Gorse Hill in Worcester) gave them some boost in those areas too. So, the Conservatives performed OK here, albeit not incredibly strongly.
So, who were the real winners this time? It was neither the main two parties obviously. Rather, it was the party many assumed (including myself) were on a death spiral, especially after their tuition fees controversy, the animosity held towards Nick Clegg lowering their support and their irrelevance in a post-Brexit world with their anti-Brexit rhetoric. That would be the Liberal Democrats. This is mainly because of their results. They were the only major party to gain council seats (taking three off the Conservatives in Kingston upon Thames, Richmond upon Thames and South Cambridgeshire) and gained the most councillors at 75 next to Labour’s results. They certainly did better than they had done in the 2014 results, where they lost 2 councils and 310 councillors.
Why did they do so well then? Partially, the resentment towards the two parties probably helped, but in particular the disagreements between the Conservatives’ promise to deliver Brexit and the anti-Brexit attitude of many London areas (including the ones the Liberal Democrats won over the Conservative Party) made voting for a more EU friendly party the preferred option for those constituents. That would follow a similar pattern to the general election last year, with their aggressive anti-Brexit campaign (including the now infamous ‘Vote Her, Get Him’ poster) allowing them to gain some seats in Conservative seats like Bath and Twickenham for example, despite the former Conservative MPs backing the EU in the 2016 referendum. There is also potential that their moderate centrist platform may attract disillusioned Labour voters who are against the hard left in Corbyn’s lot, and some seats where Labour have strongholds increased their Liberal Democrat presence indicates this. However, this is only speculation.
Finally, who were the biggest losers in the election? That would be UKIP. They made the biggest losses of that time, with 126 councillors lost, maintaining only 3 councillors overall in Derby. The most obvious reason for this is that most people see UKIP’s mission as a done deal, trusting the main parties very strongly with Brexit. The infighting that has been going on in the last few months, especially with the Henry Bolton and Jo Marney controversy, has not done their image any good either.
In conclusion, these results establish one thing: Britain is once again a two-party state. Labour and the Conservatives are baying at each other’s seats for power, all the while the Liberal Democrats are just creeping up, destined to perhaps stay around longer than one first thought. It clearly shows that they aren’t going away any time soon. The collapse of the UKIP vote and the lack of any major results for any of the other minor parties (with only the Green Party gaining some more councillors at 8 in total) indicates this only further.