By Campaign Agent Matthew Waterfield
If today has proved one thing, it’s the importance of expectation management. Over the last few months, Labour have consistently overhyped their prospects of winning Conservative boroughs in the capital, which has led to the media focusing on the Conservatives’ ‘flagship London councils’, where it was thought Labour had a chance of pulling off ‘historic victories’.
Unfortunately for the Labour Party, their wins haven’t materialised. The Conservatives hung on in Wandsworth, retained comfortable majorities in Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea and even made gains from Labour in Barnet, which once looked like a lost cause. This means that they didn’t take a single London borough from the Conservatives, although they did succeed in gaining Tower Hamlets.
Elsewhere in London, the Conservatives managed to hold seats in boroughs like Lambeth, Hounslow and Tower Hamlets, where many thought they’d be wiped out. They also made gains in places like Hackney, Hillingdon and Havering, though they suffered losses in Enfield, Ealing and Redbridge, among others.
Surprisingly, the main story from these elections has turned out to be the success of the Liberal Democrats. They made net gains of 75, winning seats in places ranging from Sunderland to West Oxfordshire, having appealed to those in Northern cities as well as residents of the Home Counties.
In total, they gained 4 councils – Kingston, Richmond and South Cambridgeshire from the Conservatives and Three Rivers from No Overall Control. In London alone they made notable gains in boroughs like Merton and Haringey, although they suffered in their heartland of Sutton, losing 12 seats, and were wiped out in Barnet and Hackney.
As I alluded to, their success lies in the fact that, as well as winning over Tory Remainers, they also gained seats from Labour across Northern England. As well as Sunderland, they made significant gains in places such as Liverpool, Sheffield and Hull, suggesting that they might be making a resurgence in some of their former strongholds (having previously run all three councils).
However, it’s worth pointing out that, outside of London, the Conservatives also had a very successful night. Taking advantage of UKIP’s electoral collapse, they gained Basildon and Peterborough from No Overall Control and came within inches of repeating the same trick in Nuneaton & Bedworth, Dudley and Walsall. They even managed to win Redditch from Labour, offsetting the loss to them of Plymouth.
Although losing Trafford to No Overall Control may have put a dampener on their night, the Conservatives can celebrate the fact that they retained control of Swindon, where it had been assumed they’d lose, as well as preventing Labour from seizing control of councils like Worcester, Amber Valley and North East Lincolnshire, among others.
The disastrous outcome of the elections for UKIP surprised no one, although they did cause an upset when they toppled the Labour leader of Derby Council, contributing to the council’s slide into No Overall Control.
As well as this gain, they held 2 other seats, a better result than 2017, when they only won a single seat. Although UKIP’s decline seems to now be inevitable, tonight ensured that they will at least retain some council seats until at least 2022. After all, the BNP only lost hold of its final council seat last night, years after it faded away from the British political scene. And another significant tranche of UKIP seats will be up for election next year – who their former voters choose to support after Brexit is yet to be seen.
Sources and Further Reading
- “Local election results 2018: The results in maps and charts”, BBC News (5 May 2018)
- “Local council election results 2018- in full”, The Guardian (5 May 2018)
- Lizzy Buchan, “Local elections - as it happened: Corbyn insists Labour ‘ready for an election', despite missing top London targets”, The Independent (4 May 2018)
- George Eaton, “The local elections were not a “bad night” for Labour - but Jeremy Corbyn needs another great leap forward”, The Newstatesman (4 May 2018)
Image: RachelH_ @flickr