Snapdragon Election Bulletin – It’s Boris Wot Won It…
Quote of the Day:
“He’s not the Messiah – he’s a very naughty boy.”
Yes, Boris did eventually win, but it was not as clear cut as first thought.
By mid-afternoon, Labour had broken the 700 seat barrier which had been widely touted as the benchmark for success. The eventual gain was 854 seats and 33 councils with Conservatives losing 12 councils. Miliband probably thought he was dreaming with the adoration and congratulatory tv coverage which he has had all day. At times he sounded more like he thought he was in a Roman Forum when announcing success in Scotland with the phrase “Friends, I bring news from Scotland, my chariots have just traversed the land to tell of our good fortune”, okay, so I made the bit in italics up but it’s been a long day and that was pretty much the gist of it.
The gains made by Labour surprised most commentators – it was always expected that they would make significant gains as the natural course of an anti-government bounce. However, the gains go well beyond the mid-term effect and, potentially, signify the beginnings of a genuine change in attitude towards the Labour Party amongst the general public.
After a power cut at Ally Pally which delayed counting and generally slow progress on the count, even viewers at home were starting to feel weary. Just when it seemed time to switch over, the ever charming Chukka Umuna came to give his view point – still arguing for Ken when it really was looking nearly impossible for him to win. At one point it was looking as if Boris was actually going to win on the first round with over 50% of the vote on first preferences, quite quickly it then looked as if not only were second preferences inevitable, but also that Boris was not looking nearly as certain as he was earlier in the day. Indeed, the collective stress levels around the counting centres for the GLA would probably have created enough nervous energy to power most of London for a month or two.
In the event, demonstrating that it was the Boris factor far more than the Party factor which influenced the outcome of the elections in London, not only did Labour take several additional constituency seats on the Assembly, but it is expected that the London-wide List election will give additional seats to Labour.
The Lib Dem candidate, Brain Thingymajig – so easy to forget who he is – was very nearly hammered down into fifth place as both Jenny Jones (Green) and Siobhan Benita (Independent) made a strong showing. Just imagine what Benita could have done if she hadn’t been locked out of tv debates and most media coverage…
Some key players within Conservative London politics lost their seats, in particular:
Richard Barnes – Ealing & Hillingdon; Richard is also a councillor in Hillingdon and has been a strong figure on the Assembly, particularly noted for his handling of the Report in the July 7th bombings. The new Assembly member is Labour’s Onkar Singh Sahota.
Brian Coleman – Barent & Camden; the controversial figure was widely expected to lose his seat not simply due to a national swing, but due to some exceptional public outbursts over recent weeks. The new Assembly member is former Labour Hendon MP and prominent London figure, Andrew Dismore.
The Conservatives retained:
Bexley & Bromley – James Cleverley
Merton & Wandsworth – Richard Tracey (although this was probably a little too close for comfort for the party’s liking)
Croydon & Sutton – Stephen O’Connoll
West Central – Kit Malthouse
Havering & Redbridge – Roger Evans
South West – Tony Arbour
City & East – John Biggs
Lambeth & Southwark – Val Shawcross
Greenwich & Lewisham – Len Duvall
Brent & Harrow – Navin Shah
Enfield & Haringey – Joanne McCartney
North East – Jeanette Arnold
Overall, this puts the balance of power on the Assembly in Labour’s hands – although the Assembly has relatively little power against the Mayor in many ways, symbolically it is indicative of a potential shift in voting patterns. However, the Conservatives need a minimum of 9 members to be able to get the Budget through. On top of this, it made the Boris factor even more stark – areas where Boris won on Mayoral votes, the Conservatives lost seats. Furthermore, with Labour having control of more London local authorities than the Conservatives, this increases Labour representation at the local level – this can become increasingly important when it comes to subsequent elections as there are likely to be more activists and more arms and legs to run the on the ground campaign.
The cult of personality continued but in the opposite direction as Nick Clegg was well and truly dumped by all of his ‘no more than thirty’ former lovers and most other people across the country. The Lib Dems lost Sheffield Council in the last elections, which was a blow, however, this election has been even worse with Nick Clegg’s homeland well and truly showing their desire to turf him out, losing a further nine seats to Labour.
The Greens had a good night in general with an increase of 11 seats, holding onto all six seats in Norwich and making gains in Dudley and Reading. Conversely, the BNP lost all six seats it was defending in local elections and did not regain the seat it previously held on the London Assembly until the BNP member, Richard Barnbrook ,was ejected from the Party after trying to usurp Nick Griffin.
In Scotland, Labour held onto Glasgow, against expectations – a knock to the SNP who were hoping to take control. However, the SNP did well elsewhere, unlike the Lib Dems who were well and truly trounced in Scotland – I’m starting to feel a little like a broken record now but it’s a truly historic moment when a party manages to govern an campaign itself into near electoral oblivion.Labour gained eight councils in Wales and two in Scotland overall. The Conservatives lost the only two councils they had in Wales along with many other seats.
Bucking the trend which started this morning, Bristol voted ‘Yes’ for a Directly Elected Mayor with an election now scheduled to he held in November. However, the electorate giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other as both Sheffield and Newcastle promptly announced their ‘No’ vote. Birmingham soon followed, also announcing ‘Non’ to a Mayor – this will probably be a relief to new Leader, Sir Albert Bore who would have faced the prospect of either standing for selection for Mayor for Labour against some other heavy hitters and then, if successful, running against the other parties or to be more or less a figurehead leader – certainly not what he is in politics for!
Rather humiliating for the Government then, for almost all of the regions to vote against a Directly Elected Mayor. Perhaps they need to get George Galloway on board next time. Perhaps Galloway is actually some sort of Jedi who uses mind games to convince anyone to do anything ‘these are not the candidates you are voting for’ (sorry, it’s May 4th and it’s getting late, I couldn’t help it…)
In Other News:
So, will a reshuffle take place imminently? Well, difficult to tell but you’d expect the dust to settle first before any knee-jerk reactions (not least as the Lib Dems need to be included and the Tories will have difficulty pacifying back-benchers with limited offers on the table). At some point though, you’d expect Grant Shapps to be reshuffled – after all, he promised to resign if there hadn’t been a significant increase in house-building numbers by the end of the first term in parliament so he should probably be moved in enough time to distance himself from that.
The Leveson Inquiry goes on with half of the Cabinet called to give evidence to the Inquiry. Several members of the government have now been named as ‘core participants’, meaning that they are either deemed material witnesses or likely to be subject to criticism. This also means that they have the right to see evidence in advance of appearing before the Inquiry – the eight Ministers in question have battled hard to ensure that they have this advance notice, does this suggest that they are all more concerned than they would have us believe about just what may be revealed by Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks??
It’s really more exciting than The West Wing…