- There are elections in 144 out of England’s 333 councils – i.e: less than half – with 4411 seats being contested. And here again is the Savanta graphic showing that, as Harry Phibbs wrote on this site earlier this year, earlier this year, “most Conservative MPs either have no elections in their constituencies or only for a minority of their councillors, often in a minority of the wards”.
- These contests are most comparable to those of 2018, when the Conservative share of the vote fell by two per cent from the 2017 elections to 37 per cent, and the Labour share rose by eight per cent to 36 per cent. The Tories lost two councils net and Labour one. Labour gained 79 councillors and the Conservatives lost 35. A key figure demonstrates the degree to which this cycle is in traditional Labour territory: it won 53 per cent of the seats.
- As Playbook pointed out yesterday, the Tories have been warning that they could lose 800 seats, which is clearly management expectation. By contrast, the New Statesman believes that they will lose about 200. As I write, Labour have won three councils and are up 38 councillors and the Conservatives have lost six councils and 91 councillors. The Liberal Democrats are up one council and 40 councillors; the Greens up by 22 councillors.
- The results in London to date are very bad for the Tories, who have lost Barnet; Wandsworth, the flagship council associated with the Thatcher revolution and, perhaps more surprisingly, Westminster (all to Labour). They have also lost Southampton, West Oxfordshire and Worcester. Labour has kept control of Labour Wolverhampton, Salford and Coventry – and the Liberal Democrats have gained Hull from Labour.
- However, the Tories have kept control of Redditch, Amber Valley and Dudley. It would be simplistic to say that the pattern of the Brexit referendum is being repeated, with London and its hinterland and some other cities voting Labour where they voted Remain, and provincial England voting Conservative where it voted Leave. For a start, these are local elections contested by a wide variety of parties, and are not a poll offering a choice between two views. Furthermore, the Conservatives have failed to gain Sunderland, for example.
- Nonetheless, my snap take is that the shadow of Brexit hangs over these elections. The Conservative parliamentary presence in London is already small; the party’s parliamentary majorities in counties like Oxfordshire are generally very substantial. If – and it’s a big if – “blue fade” comes slowly to the Home Counties and South-East, if at all, and most of the Red Wall can be kept in the blue column, the outlook for the next general election may well be competitive for the Conservatives, after all.
- Don’t take it from me: John Curtice’s view at this stage is that “the Conservatives have suffered more or less the kind of loss of support that we might have anticipated given their current standing in the opinion polls”, while his take on Labour is that “this is certainly not a local election performance that in any sense indicates a party that is on course for winning a general election with an overall majority.”
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Author: Paul Goodman
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