You are currently browsing the daily archive for May 9, 2022.

It came as no surprise that the Conservatives fared poorly in the 2022 local elections on Thursday, May 5.

England

In England, the major headline was that the Liberal Democrats lived up to their slogan of ‘Winning here’ for the first time in quite a while.

They were the big beneficiaries of English votes where local councillors stood this year (many councils held elections in 2021):

Labour’s big wins were in London, where they won three longstanding Conservative councils for the first time: Westminster, Wandsworth and Barnet.

It will be interesting to see how these London boroughs fare under Labour. In Lambeth, council tax for a Band D property is £1,502 per annum. Under the Conservatives, Wandsworth’s was £800 per annum. Guido has a photo of a street in each of those council areas, where one can see a discernable difference in low-spend, high service council delivery.

Here’s a Twitter exchange on the subject, focusing on Wandsworth:

The Croydon Council mention is interesting. It went from Labour to Conservative on Thursday, something I thought I’d never see.

Outside of London, Labour had little traction, especially in Red Wall areas, with the exception of the newly created Cumberland council.

Guido Fawkes has a good analysis, excerpted below (emphases in the original):

Whilst it was obviously terrible for the Tories that they lost nearly 500 seats, now all the votes are in and the dust has settled, did Labour advance as the Tories retreated? They actually did relatively poorly.

Labour’s electoral performance outside their M25 enclave saw them gain just 22 councillors across England. That’s it. While the Tories’ results were obviously weak – although not at their worst expectations – any attempts to spin the numbers will have to contend with the fact that the LibDems, the Greens, and even independent candidates gained more net seats than Labour. Labour’s wins in London will be small beer when it comes to a general election …

Winning a net gain of just 22 councillors, and gaining control of the same number of councils as the LibDems, is not a strong showing. William Hague managed to do better in 2001, when the Tories won 120 seats and 5 councils – a consolation prize for getting pummelled in the general election the same day. 

Even within the capital, however, there are warning signs for Labour. While they pop champagne over wins in Westminster, Barnet, and Wandsworth, their losses in Croydon and Harrow to the Tories, and Tower Hamlets to Lutfur Rahman [Independent] should raise a few eyebrows. Losing Tower Hamlets to a man who was temporarily banned from office over corruption isn’t exactly promising…

For the Conservatives, the most damaging losses were in previously loyal areas now called the Blue Wall, e.g. the Home Counties just outside of London, the south coast and parts of the West Country.

Late on Friday, The Guardian reported (purple emphases mine):

Boris Johnson’s leadership is facing fresh peril after senior Conservatives blamed him for losing swaths of the party’s southern heartlands to the Liberal Democrats and flagship London boroughs to Labour.

In a punishing set of local elections for the Tories, the party lost about 400 council seats, ceding control of Westminster and Wandsworth in London to Labour for the first time since the 1970s, and plunging to its worst position in Scotland for a decade.

Conservative MPs and council leaders questioned Johnson’s leadership, demanding action to tackle the cost of living crisis and rebuild trust in the wake of the Partygate scandal after a damaging series of losses across the “blue wall” in Somerset, Kent, Oxfordshire and Surrey.

However, the scale of the Tory backlash was tempered by a mixed picture for Labour, which showed progress, but not enough yet to suggest a landslide for Keir Starmer in a general election. A BBC projection for a general election based on Friday’s results put Labour on 291 seats, the Conservatives on 253, the Lib Dems on 31 and others on 75.

Labour had a very strong result in London and took some southern councils such as Worthing, Crawley and Southampton

The Lib Dems also had a clearly successful election night in England, adding at least 189 seats. They took control of the new unitary authority in Somerset, previously a Tory stronghold, edged out the Conservatives in Portsmouth, and pushed them out of control in West Oxfordshire. The Greens also performed well, winning 81 seats – more than doubling their number of councillors – as voters also turned to independents and residents’ associations.

Going back to Tuesday, May 3, Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden MP alleged that Labour and the Lib Dems had a ‘pact’, whereby Labour did not put forward a candidate in every council election, deferring to the Lib Dems in order to win against the Conservatives. This is because England uses FPTP (First Past The Post) voting.

Pictured are the Lib Dems’ Ed Davey on the left and Labour’s Keir Starmer on the right:

Guido has the story along with a video of a Lib Dem woman who confirms such a plan:

There are clearly tactical Lib-Lab stand downs going on around the country. Tory chairman Oliver Dowden claims that in the South West, Labour are standing candidates in 61% of seats compared to 97% in 2018. In the South East, Labour are standing candidates in 88% of seats compared to 99% in 2018.  In the North East, the LibDems are standing in just 56% of seats, down from 78% four years ago. Labour is standing in 99% of seats in the area. “These shifts”, claims Dowden, “are far too substantial to be a mere coincidence”. In response Starmer says “There is no pact, everybody knows there is no pact” …

This LibDem organiser in Cumbria gives the game away about what is happening at local level. Labour-supporting Neal Lawson and Clive Lewis have been arguing for years that an unfair ‘First Past the Post’ system splits the ‘progressive vote’ and prevents the ‘progressive majority’ from winning.

It stands to reason that the total left-of-centre vote will be split, given on average two candidates from Labour, the LibDems or the Greens are running against just one right-of-centre candidate in England.  According to new research from Electoral Reform Society front-group Politics for the Many, in 43.8% of wards there is one Tory standing against candidates from all three of the progressive ‘left’ parties. In 35.5% of wards where there is one Tory candidate, there are two ‘left’ candidates. According to the research, in almost 3,000 council seats up for grabs, there are only 15 wards in the whole of England where there are more right-of-centre parties standing than left parties.

Labour and LibDem strategists know this; they are looking on these locals as a trust-building exercise and a dry run for the general election…

The Telegraph confirmed this pact on Friday, May 6:

If Sir Keir is to get the keys to Number 10, it may be thanks to a deal struck after election day with another party – which is why the Liberal Democrat performance on Thursday is so interesting.

Seven years ago, the party was all but wiped out as voters punished Nick Clegg for his coalition with David Cameron. The political toxicity has clung on in the years since then.

But there were signs of real green shoots for the Lib Dems on Thursday. Their victory in Hull, taking the council from Labour, was the stand-out early result

The relentless targeting of Blue Wall Tory seatsoften in rural southern constituencies they believe have been “taken for granted” by the Conservatives – also achieved notable wins.

By now, Labour realisea that it is relatively easy for a Conservative area to go for the Lib Dems at some point, much more than it would be to vote in Labour candidates.

A good illustration of this is in St Albans, Hertfordshire, which, over the past several years, has gone from True Blue to Yellow-Orange, including their MP:

A lot of Lib Dem councils stay that way. This is largely because a) the Lib Dems know how to get out the vote and b) residents get to know the Lib Dem candidates better for that reason:

Conservatives would do well to study St Albans and find out where they’ve gone wrong.

On that note, one Conservative MP who does realise the value of getting out the vote is Bob Blackman, who has represented Harrow East since 2010.

On Sunday, May 8, he told GB News’s The Political Correction that Harrow became a Conservative council on Thursday because he and other Conservatives went out once a week to canvass residents on council services. Their dogged determination worked.

Blackman says that, as far as he is concerned, the next election campaign has already begun, hence more canvassing. Other Conservative MPs should follow his example.

Devolved nations

Each of the devolved nations has a form of proportional representation rather than FPTP. This is why they are very much left-of-centre.

This is how the Single Transferable Vote works:

Wales

Welsh Labour were highly successful. In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford runs his nation’s Labour Party, so there is no Keir Starmer influence.

As such, Welsh Labour wiped out the last council under Conservative control: Monmouthshire.

Scotland

Scottish Labour also performed well, placing the Conservatives in third place for the first time in ten years.

Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party (SNP) remains the top party, however.

Late on Friday, the Daily Mail reported:

Nicola Sturgeon has said she is ‘thrilled’ with the results coming out of the local elections in Scotland after her party increased its share of councillors.

The leader of the SNP told Sky News that the results sent a ‘clear message’ to Boris Johnson and the Tories.

She said: ‘We are the largest party in more councils today than we were yesterday – we’ve won the election and we’ve won the election by a country mile.

‘I think it’s the eighth consecutive election win under my leadership of the SNP or after 15 years in government so it is a stupendous result for the SNP and sends the clearest possible message to Boris Johnson and the Tories.’

She said the SNP was still the largest party in Glasgow, despite some Labour gains.

However Sir Keir’s party came very close to taking the city council, adding five councillors for a total of 36.

The SNP, meanwhile, shed two seats for a total of 37.

Sturgeon said Labour benefited a lot from Tory’s Partygate scandal, adding: ‘Labour threw the kitchen sink at Glasgow… and yet they still can’t defeat the SNP, so I think there’s still some reflection perhaps needed on Labour’s behalf.’

All councils up for election in Scotland have now declared their votes.

The SNP gained the most new councillors with 23, followed by the Lib Dems with 20 and Labour 19.

The Green Party gained 15 while the Conservatives lost a total of 61.

Northern Ireland

For the first time in its 101-year history, the Northern Ireland Assembly now has a Sinn Féin majority, even though 58% of the votes in that nation went to Unionist parties. Here’s the UK’s Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab (video here):

As with Wales and Scotland, Northern Ireland’s Assembly is free to make its own laws in a number of areas. Oddly enough, that did not extend to abortion laws, which Westminster (the UK Government) imposed on the province by fiat in 2021:

But I digress.

Under the aforementioned Single Transferable Vote system, Sinn Féin won more first preference votes than did the Unionist parties.

This result propels Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill to First Minister. She has been Vice President of Sinn Féin for a few years now.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which had control previously, now refuses to form a coalition government — power-sharing executive — unless and until Boris Johnson’s government rectifies the damaging anomalies in the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol.

Until a power-sharing executive is formed, Michelle O’Neill cannot take up her duties as First Minister.

Most Britons associate Sinn Féin not only with past terrorism but also with Irish re-unification, which will surely be on the cards within the next five years.

On Thursday, the party played a blinder, as the Daily Mail reported last Friday:

Neither Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s party or the Ulster Unionists have yet agreed to join a power-sharing executive in which Sinn Fein would be able to nominate the First Minister. 

They have argued that a win for Sinn Fein would lead to a referendum on Irish reunification. But Sinn Fein has run its campaign on the cost-of-living crisis.

Conclusion

The Conservatives are only now reacting after the horse bolted months ago.

They should have been out campaigning over the past few weeks, MPs included.

Only now are they coming up with possible solutions which should have been discussed on the hustings.

On Friday, May 6, the Daily Mail reported that Boris Johnson is considering a summer reshuffle to tackle the cost of living crisis. Hmm.

Over the weekend, a number of Conservative MPs began asking the Government for tax cuts.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak promises to look ‘at all the options’.

Good luck with that. There isn’t much time before the 2024 elections.

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