This year’s local elections showed that the UK’s political map is still being redrawn in the wake of the Brexit referendum and the subsequent realignment of the country’s parties and their electorates.

The Conservative party suffered defeats across the country — notably in London — but its vote share held up in many parts of England, despite the travails of Boris Johnson’s leadership.

The Liberal Democrats have continued to chip away at the Tories’ traditional base in southern England, while Labour had a very successful night in the capital but struggled to replicate its gains elsewhere.

Four key points have emerged from the election results.

1. Conservatives are in serious trouble in London

Six years ago, Boris Johnson departed London’s City Hall as a popular mayor who had softened the Conservatives’ once-toxic brand in the capital. But on Friday, his party was left reeling after the loss of symbolic Tory led councils.

Voters in key boroughs, concerned with the cost of living and put off by the partygate scandal, turned their backs on the former mayor. Barnet and Westminster, which have both had Conservative leadership since 1964, swung to Labour, along with Wandsworth, the favourite council of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

The Liberal Democrats also made some gains in the capital, including in Richmond-upon-Thames, where the party now holds 48 out of 54 seats. However, the Conservatives maintained control of Bexley, Kensington and Chelsea, and Hillingdon, and took control of Harrow council from Labour.

Oliver Dowden, Tory party chair, sought to play down the losses, noting that the Conservatives had struggled in the capital for some time. “There is a general momentum across London which . . . you saw actually in the past 20 years of elections in Wandsworth of us doing less well.”

But party officials in London argued that the loss of symbolic councils in the capital was a sign of wider concerns over the prime minister’s policies and character.

Daniel Thomas, former Tory leader of Barnet council, said: “I think this is a warning shot from Conservative supporters.”

2. Labour is making gradual gains in its former ‘red wall’ heartlands

Sir Keir Starmer’s hopes of proving that the Labour party was winning back lost voters in its pro-Leave former heartlands in the north and midlands did not entirely come to fruition.

His party made progress in some areas, comfortably taking the newly formed Cumberland council, which includes the Tory “red wall” seat of Copeland.

John Mallinson, Tory leader of Carlisle council, which will be subsumed into Cumberland next year, blamed Johnson personally for the result, citing the partygate scandal and “the integrity issue”.

Elsewhere, Labour also took control of Rossendale council in Lancashire, fended off attempts by the Conservatives to take Sunderland council in the north-east and made gains in Chorley.

Nevertheless, the party’s vote share was slightly down from 2018 across the north of England and the Tories continued to make gains in some “red wall” areas, including Hartlepool. Labour also failed to become the largest party on Tory-led Bolton council.

Rob Ford, professor of political science at Manchester university, said the results were “messy”, because judging Labour’s performance depended on whether it was measured against 2018, when the seats were last contested, or the party’s more catastrophic outcomes from 2019 onwards.

“Their critics have a point, which is getting back to where you were in 2018 is not the kind of result you expect for a party planning to govern,” he said.

3. Liberal Democrats are gaining ground in the ‘blue wall’

Following the collapse of Labour’s “red wall” in the 2019 general election, and the Conservative party’s pivot to the concerns of its new pro-Brexit supporters, Tory MPs worried that they could face threat from the Liberal Democrats in their own “blue wall” heartlands elsewhere in England.

The local election results proved this is true. The Lib Dems gained seats across southern England at the expense of the Tories, including West Oxfordshire, Wokingham and Tunbridge Wells. The party has also taken control of the new unitary council in Somerset.

Sir Ed Davey, Lib Dem leader, said the gains represented a “turning point” for his party’s fortunes, representing an “almighty shockwave that will bring this Conservative government tumbling down”.

Johnson admitted that Tories had a “mixed” election night but acknowledged the return of Lib Dems, saying it had been a “tough night in some parts of the country”. 

One former cabinet minister in a southern seat said that “it’s clear we’re in trouble among our natural voters. We’re going to have to look at our economic strategy and what we can do to keep those people onside.”

4. SNP remains dominant in Scotland, while Labour gains in Wales

The Scottish National party’s dominance continues, with the results leaving it comfortably in the lead in Scotland. The party improved on its performance from 2017 local elections, gaining at least 20 councillors.

The Scottish Labour party reached its goal of coming in second place, adding 20 councillors to its total. However, the SNP was still comfortably the largest party.

The Labour gains came at the expense of the Conservatives, whose vote share dropped by 16 per cent. Adam Tomkins, a former Scottish Tory MSP, laid the blame directly on the party’s leader, Douglas Ross, for flip-flopping on whether Johnson should quit over the partygate scandal.

“It was Douglas who U-turned, Douglas who flipped, and Douglas who backed the PM. He and his team need to own the consequences,” he said.

In Wales, where some northern areas had swung from Labour to the Tories in a similar way to “‘red wall” parts of northern England in 2019, there were early signs of Tory losses. In Denbighshire, the party dropped from first place to fourth place.

Elsewhere, the Tories lost Monmouthshire, the only council they controlled in Wales, with the former leader Richard John describing the overall picture as “hard pain”.

The results prompted anger among senior Conservative figures. Councillor Adrian Robson, leader of the Conservatives on Cardiff council, warned the Tory vote was “splitting all over the place” and suggested MPs may need to reconsider their leader.

Source link

By admin

Malcare WordPress Security