The local elections have been an interesting display of the current balance in English politics. The trends at a local election can suggest the overall trend in UK politics and therefore give a good indication of political trends outside polls. What do the local elections tell us?
The Tories have been able to trade evenly in their council elections. Despite inflicting years of austerity on local services and years of cuts, The Conservative Party has held onto seats in London, holding Wandsworth and Westminster Council and even gaining Barnet Council in London which was in part due to the Antisemitism scandal in Labour. The Tories also made gains in council seats in the Midlands and The North gaining votes from UKIP. This trend is similar to Trump’s gains in the Rust Belt, populist Right-wing growth in areas of industrial decline. The realignment of UKIP to Tory helped The Tories in ways that other centre-Right parties have failed to achieve. The Tory gains in Derby may help them unseat the Chris Williamson, a Corbyn supporter who may be a future leader for the left of The Labour Party.
The elections have been disappointing for Labour. The only council they gained was the council election I campaigned in, which was Plymouth, where Labour had an affective local campaign against a weak Tory council. The failure to gain Wandsworth, Barnet and Westminster councils shows the limit of Labour’s success in London since 2017, with the party unable to make the most of the successes in that year. Labour shows it is unable to win UKIP voters in the Midlands or the North, without a patriotic message, Labour fails to target these voters. The loss of Derby Council, Redditch and Nuneaton Council combined with Tory gains in Peterborough and Bolton highlight its precarious place in Midland and Northern marginals, whilst The Conservative Party has increased its control Midland marginals such as Dudley. Worcester has also been unfortunate for Labour, given its typical marginal status.
The biggest winners are the small parties of The Liberal Democrats and The Greens. The Liberal Democrats have made large gains, with a landslide sweep of Richmond-upon-Thames Council, which was the most dramatic result in the local elections. Most of these gains were in middle-class areas, The Liberal Democrats have done moderately well in Northern England. This underlines the growing trends that professionals are more inclined to vote for a Left-wing party than in the past. Perhaps 2 party politics is only a fad at least in local politics.
By Dan Clemence