Friday 6 May 2016

UKIP and the English Local Elections

It's a good job I'm not a professional psephologist. On Tuesday I said Labour would make net gains, and last time I checked we're currently down 22 councillors. There's still some distance to go, but it looks pretty much like we're standing still. Not ideal, but not disastrous, and I'd argue that it's difficult to see how Labour would have done better under any of the other Labour leadership candidates.

Here's why. In the pre-election commentary on the Welsh Assembly elections, UKIP were widely tipped to secure its first seats via the list system. Presently the purple party has taken five seats and according to the newly-elected Mark Reckless, they're projecting a haul of seven in total. Yet what was missing from my own piece looking at the English local elections, and virtually all the Westminster-centric coverage was the overlooking of UKIP's reach. This, ultimately, is why 2016 differs significantly from 2012. Back then, UKIP were barely a factor in politics outside of the European elections. They came out of the local government elections with just seven councillors, a net gain of zero. As we know, since then UKIP have become a major force and continue to tussle with the LibDems over third party status in England, and at the time of writing are up 20 councillors.

In the focus on Jeremy's leadership and what would/wouldn't be a good result for him, a sober consideration of the dynamics of these contents and what UKIP meant for them wasn't undertaken. To illustrate, in Sunderland Central last year, polled 20% of the votes, and almost 17-point increase on 2010. Fast forward to last night, and Labour were down in the city by eight per cent. This was always going to happen in each of those council contests that haven't been up since the 2012 high mark and yes, again, this would have been the case regardless of the leader. That UKIP's rise hasn't damaged Labour too much, it could be argued, vindicates the arguments made by Jeremy supporters last year that only he could stymie the fragmentation of the core vote towards them. In effect Labour are challenging UKIP as the go-to choice for the protest voter, for good or ill.

So when the airwaves crackle later with the inevitable howls of outrage, a cool-headed comprehensive analysis of what happened in yesterday's elections can only conclude that comparisons with 2012 are as meaningful as comparing apples and pears. Electoral realities shifted decisively before Jeremy was a twinkle in party members' eyes, and have to be considered and assessed on their own merits.


BCFG said...

So Labour did not do anywhere near as badly as the unfree media had predicted, though true to form they are still presenting it in the worst possible light for Corbyn. And as usual they have some Blairite to stick the knife in. The media must have a call group to Blairite's, if one doesn't answer it rings to the next and so on!

If we consider the onslaught of media bias against Corbyn and all the orchestrated campaigns to undermine him then this result is very positive. But we must somehow manage to break though the Iron curtain of stupidity erected by the unfree media. Labour have tried to kick start a serious debate around economic idea, drawing on the expertise of may well respected economists, but in our media landscape debating ideas, a climate of intelligent discussion free from hysteria is drowned in a cacophony of triviality, infantilism and idiocy. Something the Blairites are all too ready to indulge and something they have contributed to.

I think if we had had any of the Tory lite candidates leading the Labour party it may have sunk without trace. Though if your policies are simply Tory lite why not join the Tory party, or the Liberals?

Blairism has probably killed off Labour in Scotland for generations, also maybe Scots are waking up to the fact that all they have gained from the Union is the worst health stats in Europe. They must look at Sweden and think, that could have been us without those wretches down South!

But Corbyn is a breath of fresh air in an environment full of toxic pollution.

Anonymous said...

I did mention the Ukip polls ("7-9 seats") on May 4th under "Managing Labour's electoral expectations" but, in all honesty, for those living in Wales (like me) and Ukip watchers, it was not a big surprise. It was on the cards if anyone cared to look at the votes Ukip received in Wales in May 15. That's why there was such huge battles within Ukip over the past year in Wales and nationally. Who's going to get their hands on the juicy Assembly seats.

As to why?

Imho, as in Scotland, the traditional Labour vote (and the LibDem protest one) has fractured in a "nationalist" direction here. Only, it's gone in a Plaid direction and a Ukip one at the same time. The split opposition in Wales has (luckily) helped Labour to retain enough seats (29 out of 60) to keep going, probably with some help from Plaid.

No doubt, we'll see lots of analysis from various sources but one thing's for sure, it's helped to kickstart Neil Hamilton, Mark Reckless and Ukip again.

And the Brexit campaign here too.

John R

Walsie said...

On a more 'in house ' comment I gather a TUSC candidate got Zero 0 votes..........

Walsie said...

Should have said he was standing in the workers fortress of Rainham Essex

Speedy said...

"Electoral realities shifted decisively before Jeremy was a twinkle in party members' eyes, and have to be considered and assessed on their own merits."

Yes. And surprisingly...

"Blairism has probably killed off Labour in Scotland for generations..."

Almost yes. To be fair to Blair, John Smith effectively killed off Labour in Scotland by championing Devolution which Blair was then obliged to carry forward. He was no fan of it. It was Devolution - not Blairism - that lost Scotland, as the Scots were able to vote for policies the rest of the country could not afford (as long as the rest of the country was paying for Scotland).

Labour is now dead as a party of UK Government, as it always relied on Scotland, which has been lost. True: the SNP rushed into the vacuum created by Blairism, but it was enabled by Devolution.

So the Scots are now free to live in Left wing never-never land off the backs of English taxpayers, leading to further division. Whatever you think about JC - the English are not going to vote for him, and the Scots do not have to pay the price for, effectively, doing so in the guise of the SNP. It's times like this I wish they had got their Independence, as much as I would feel sorry for the all working class people utterly fucked over by a Scotland without oil.

BUT... there is some justice in saying that none of this is JC's fault. It would be the same under Milliband or even an ultra-Blairite. Devolution, championed by John Smith, killed Labour.

Talk about the Theory of Unintended Consequences.

Lidl Janus said...

I think Speedy overstates the Scotland issue; at best it's half the issue. Compare the results maps from 1997, 2005 and 2015.

Since 1997, pretty much any toehold in the non-London South has gone, whether in Kent, Cornwall or Sussex. Welsh support has decayed to Angelsey, Cardiff and the valleys. Even in 2005, it was possible to drive from Grimsby to Liverpool without ever leaving Labour territory, and largely possible to do so from Leeds to Birmingham. A whole chunk of Leics/Northants(?) which Labour dominated in 1997 is now all Tory.

Scotland might be gone for another decade or more, but what's really keeping Labour down is the weakness in the Midlands and borderline nonexistent (as opposed to tiny) presence in the South.