Snapdragon Election Bulletin – A Little Local Difficulty
Quote of the Day:
“Principles aren’t of much account anyway, except at election time After that you hang them up to let them season.”
Here at Snapdragon our cup runneth over with election excitement, so much so that we could barely sleep waiting to find out whether the local elections would signify famine and pestilence for the Coalition partners and a chink of light for EMili and his band of merry men… Well, maybe not quite that exciting, really, I think we all knew that in a mid-term local election the main issue is likely to be just how bad the losses are and how effectively or otherwise the various parties try to spin it. Personally, I’m looking forward to the Eric Pickles interview – there’s bound to be several – he always has such an interesting take on things. So far he has tried to wrong foot Labour by almost appearing congratulatory – surely this hides something else, he can’t really be both magnanimous and honest in defeat, at the same time??
The London Mayoral and Assembly results will not be counted until later today so the Ken and Boris show goes on – although the late polls suggest that Boris pulled fairly convincingly ahead. We will keep that excitement for later in the day if we’re still awake and interested anymore.
To the numbers, so far, with 97 of 181 councils declared, Labour has – as expected – made huge gains, winning over 450 seats so far and set to gain over 700. The Conservatives have lost over 270 seats and the Lib Dems over 120. This is the worst result in the history of the party. This is the worst result in the history of the party (sorry, I just thought that was worth repeating). There will be many amongst the local Lib Dems in particular who are rueing the day they ever opted for that sort of ‘Tim Nice but Dim’ looking chap, Nick Clegg as leader. However, I’m looking forward to seeing if and how they try to spin their way out of this one. Or will Clegg simply be spun out of office?
In Wales, Plaid Cymru have suffered significant losses at the hands of Labour – in terms of future prospects, this is potentially as significant as the results in England where a bloody nose for the ConDems was expected by everyone.
In an attempt to make the local elections more interesting to the general population, Sky News has been extending projections to the hypothetical General Election, which all seems a ridiculous thing to do as regardless of what the media and politicians think , the public aren’t quite that predictable or stupid.
Delightfully, Gorgeous George Galloway has also been all over Sky News declaring the UK election system to be bust – may be true, but I suspect most people who won last night know where they were elected to serve not like the Bradford/Blackburn Spring confusion which Galloway suffered from a few weeks ago. The combative Baroness Warsi implied earlier this morning that any gains for UKIP would be a direct result of a loss of seats for the BNP, this was not received well by UKIP and led to some pithy (and quickly deleted) Twitter exchanges). Amongst the smaller parties, the BNP have so far lost three councillors, UKIP have gained one so far, Greens have gained three and Respect have gained five; whilst there may be general disaffection with the major parties, voters have certainly not turned to smaller or independents as an alternative. The biggest vote winner tended to be to not bother voting at all.
Most notable so far:
Labour have taken control of Birmingham from No Overall Control, not just by a wafer, but by a majority of 34 winning 20 seats from Conservatives and Lib Dems. Even in a mid-term election, this is exceptionally bad. It also sees the return of local authority veteran, Sir Albert Bore to the top post.
Labour have taken control of Dudley – this was a long shot for Labour in an election by thirds but they took half of the seats up for election.
Labour have taken control of Derby, Exeter, Norwich, North East Lincolnshire, Nuneaton & Bedworth, Reading, Thurrock and Wirral from No Overall Control. Several of these have been back and forwards between parties and No Overall Control for many years. Labour will be hoping that it can hold on to some mid-term gains as part of a wider come back.
Labour have taken control of Harlow, Southampton and Plymouth from the Conservatives.
Labour will be delighted to have won back Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil from Independents.
Whilst Gorgeous George Galloway may be derided across media and politics, he has clearly done something right in the minds of the people of Bradford where Labour expected to take the Council from No Overall Control. Instead, the result was a victory for Galloway as Respect won 5 seats and Labour gaining just two. Galloway’s victory also included unseating the former Labour leader of the Council.
The Lib Dems have lost Cambridge to No Overall Control but did gain seats in Plymouth from the Conservatives to strengthen their lead on the Council
The Conservatives have lost Hart to No Overall Control.
In one glimmer of excitement, the Conservatives gained Winchester from No Overall Control.
Unsurprisingly, places such as Stratford on Avon, Peterborough and Brentwood – although with a loss of seats to in all of these authorities.
Still, it’s not all bad for the Conservatives, after all, there’s always the prospect of victory for Boris… Should Boris win, this will show the stark contrast between the Conservatives nationally and the cult of personality, which is Boris Johnson and can only make life more uncomfortable for David Cameron who must feel as if someone has put itching powder in his nice suit today.
One has to question why governments in power get it so wrong with trying to persuade the nation that regional government is the way forward. First we had Prescott trying to convince very sceptical, and very opposed, regions to vote for a regional government structure and now we have the Tories trying to do similar. The Mayoral Referendums have been touted as a key part of Localism and improving democratic accountability but, contrary to everything which the Government promotes, the public seem to see it as absolutely the opposite.
So far, Manchester, Nottingham and Coventry have rejected the proposal for a Directly Elected Mayor. In the case of Manchester, you’d have to question what the point would be when the Council has been run efficiently and with some fantastic results in terms of regeneration and investment by Richard Leese and Sir Howard Bernstein. Still awaiting the Birmingham result which will be particularly interesting in terms of what would happen subsequently, how candidates would be chosen and whether Mike Whitby would be able to make a come back. However, that depends on a Yes vote in the first place.
Newcastle is also a result which, if accepted, has the potential for a significant impact on the way in which the city operates in the future, going beyond the political machinations. Personally I would be surprised if Newcastle voted Yes, however, stranger things have happened and probably will before the end of the day.
In Liverpool they had already voted in favour of a Directly Elected Mayor and Labour candidate, Joe Anderson has won the seat. In this particular case, it is probably representative of a city gaining in strength and confidence with huge amounts of new economic regeneration.
Whilst the Conservatives may be licking their wounds, they can comfort themselves that things can only get better – Rebekah Brooks giving evidence to Leveson next week is surely an event they have no cause or just reason to fear? Surely a Cabinet reshuffle cannot be far away?