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“An election of consolidation”: Local Elections 2018

The 2018 Local Elections were held on Thursday 3rd May. In comparison to the election in June 2017, the results are far from surprising. Both Labour and Conservative parties failed to make any significant gains, whilst the Liberal Democrats gained four councils, UKIP (UK Independence Party) lost over one hundred and twenty councilors and the Green Party saw a net increase of five councillors. 

 

Conservative Party 

The collapse of UKIP meant some gains for the Conservative Party, including Basildon and Peterborough. Some seats were gained in Wakefield and Leeds – traditional Labour areas. In London, the Conservatives gained seats in Hillingdon (which some proposed as a potential Labour target) and won nine more seats in Sutton, despite the area being in control of the Liberal Democrats.

They lost control of Trafford, Plymouth and Richmound, losing twenty eight seats in total and losing control of one council overall.

Conservative total councillors currently stands at 1,318. Due to Labour’s hold over London and certain Labour swings, overall the Tories have lost councillors compared to the last time these seats were up, in 2014. Tories also won Barnet and Redditch.

Conservative party leader, Theresa May has already commented that Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn has failed as Labour did not gain key predicted London seats (Barnet, Westminster and Wandsworth). Theresa May speaking earlier today in Wandsworth claimed

“Labour thought they could take control – this was one of their top targets and they threw everything at it. But they failed, and the people of Wandsworth re-elected a Conservative council. That’s the message of these local elections around the country – that Conservative councils deliver great local services at lower taxes.”

 

The Labour Party 

Labour took Plymouth from the Conservatives and gained control of Kirklees. Despite disappointing results in London, Labour did gain multiple seats in Wandsworth and Westminster but these were not enough to take control of the boroughs.

Labour has also held onto Barnsley, Leeds, Sheffield and Kingston upon Hull.

However, Labour did lose overall control in Bedworth, Derby, and lost some seats in Wigan and Sheffield. Overall, Labour’s current total share of councillors stands at 2,257.

After perhaps disappointing results, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has claimed that the Conservative party talked up his party’s chances and that they set up unrealistic expectations:

 

“In a sign of how worried they are about Labour’s advance, the Tories talked up our chances to unrealistic levels, especially in London.

“The results show they are right to be worried: we came within a whisker of winning Wandsworth for the first time in over 40 years.”

 

The Liberal Democrats 

The Lib-Dems won control of Richmond-upon-Thames whilst gaining twenty four seats in the process, which ended up being one of the biggest swings of the night. They also had some strong support in Labour areas of Hull and Merton, as well as the Tory council of Gosport.

They also took Kingston-upon-Thames and South Cambridgeshire, as well as Three Rivers Council which had been under no overall party control. After today’s elections, across the country they have gained more then seventy councillors, and currently stand at a total of 523.

 

UKIP

The biggest party losses came from UKIP – in total losing one hundred councillors across the country, enabling the Tories to make some gains. They had heavy losses in Great Yarmouth and Basildon, with only managing to keep hold of a small number of seats.

Overall, UKIP ended up losing most of the seats they were previously defending.

 

Andrew Gwynne, Labour’s co-national campaign coordinator has described it as “an election of consolidation” with no particular gains or loses from the two major political parities. Neither major party has particularly made any advancements since the last General Election. Many claim that had the vote share been the same at a general election, we would be facing a hung parliament.

Despite claims that this was no extraordinary local election- almost 4,000 people were denied the right to vote over this election’s ID pilots. People were turned away and withheld from voting for not having the correct ID. This new process adopted by five boroughs (Bromley, Woking, Gosport, Watford and Swindon) is a scheme in its debut and has been proposed to be made nationwide in following elections. The chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society released the following statement on Thursday 4th May,

 

“Britain prides itself on being a leading democracy – but it is a dark day for politics when thousands of blameless people turn out to vote only to be refused.

Our estimates, based on evidence gathered by electoral observers, reveal the shocking scale of the problem. These trials have been shown up to be the chaotic, undemocratic mess many predicted.”

 

Critics of this scheme have claimed it was used to target a tiny problem of voter impersonation but had a wider impact of putting off vulnerable voters such as the elderly and homeless. The wider danger of believing ID is a necessary component of casting a vote could potentially impact future voter turnout, preventing people from participating in our democracy.

Perhaps the most surprising part of the local elections is the tacit approval granted by the electorate to the Conservative Party. Despite recent scandals such as Windrush, prominent front-bench resignations, and government cuts cited as a cause of growing violence, inequality, and deprivation, yet again, the Tories seem to have walked away without facing the consequences of their actions. Despite most of the media painting Labour’s failure to gain places like Wandsworth as representative of their national success and failure, it is a fact glossed over that Labour still control far more councils and councillors than the Conservatives. If they keep up their momentum, and gather more supporters, it seems likely that the next set of elections could tell a very different story.

Information correct as of 04/05/19 20:28.

 

Co authored by Violet Daniels and Isabelle Kennedy 

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