Saturday 6 May 2017

Local Election Take Homes

A few remarks on the local elections.

1. Voters don't vote for divided parties. Nor do they ever vote for parties that make them feel unsafe and insecure. I'll be taking this up again after the general election.

2. The national vote projections on the basis of the results have the Tories on 38%, Labour 27%, LibDems 18%, UKIP 5%. Remarkably, the 11 point difference has been hailed as not so bad a result by some. Incredible.

3. Crumbs of comfort? There are precious few outside the super safe strongholds of Manchester and Liverpool. But take homes do exist. Where Labour is strongly rooted the hurricane force winds felt elsewhere were but a fluttery breeze. The twin track approach where the leader does his thing, and local parties effectively run hyperlocal defence campaigns could work.

4. Here's another crumb. The collapse of UKIP is disproportionately piling votes up in safe Tory areas. That means there cannot be a direct correspondence between Tory polling numbers and seats likely to get grabbed. That said, look at the local results in areas Labour needs to hold on to and win. Like the West Midlands region, for instance. Not good.

5. Whatever happened to the Liberal Democrat wave? The yellow vote was up yesterday, albeit it didn't transfer into advances in the council chamber. As everyone's expecting them to do well in June, why did the wave peter out before delivering election success? In local council by-elections, and particularly as we saw in Richmond, a large number of remain voters are very motivated to go out to protest vote against Brexit. It's this that has driven LibDem by-election success. However, now the Tories know stirring up idiocies about the EU can mobilise leave voters scared that Brexit is going to get derailed/not happen, success by being (ambiguously) remain is negated. If this continues through the election, and knowing the Tories, it will, the likelihood of the LibDems regaining a swathe of Conservative-held seats looks ever more remote.

6. Now the Tories know their campaign is working, despite its awfulness, they will double down on it. The risk in doing that is voters will zone out and not head to the polling stations in numbers sufficient enough for a mega landslide, or to give Theresa May the thumping mandate she craves.


Ed said...

The 11% gap is no comfort of course, certainly not this side of the general election. But there's a certain grain of comfort in knowing that the Tory boost has come mostly at the expense of UKIP, not Labour. 27% leaves Labour perched between two outcomes: if the vote share dips a little to 25%, it'll be a terrible result, if it goes up a little to 30%, it'll be in line with 2015 and a lot better than it could have been. There would then be the possibility of winning back ground as the pro-Brexit coalition comes unstuck; May has obviously timed the election for the point where she can be all things to all Leavers, but that won't be possible once hard choices have to be made over Brexit. Anyone who's saying 'still all to play for!' is setting themselves up for a crushing disappointment next month, but that doesn't mean there's nothing at all left to play for.

Mr Mark Smith said...

May has been allowed to grandstand over Brexit negotiations without a whisper of dissent from Corbyn. Fair enough, Brexit might not be the number one issue for voters but clearly the Tories are getting plenty of mileage out of portraying themselves as the party that will fight hardest for Britain's interests in the negotiations.

What is Corbyn's strategy for countering this? Does he have one? Or is the entire leadership just resigned to election defeat and preparing themselves instead for the post-election internal power struggle?

It's a sorry state of affairs and made worse by the fact that every Corbynistas I know seems to respind to each disaster by blaming the "Blairites".

John Edwards said...

I agree with this analysis. My local branch in Oxford East bucked the trend by gaining seats, albeit against the Greens. The local councillors are well embedded in the community and go out to meet voters in between elections and take up their problems. It sounds simple but has proved effective in holding back the tide even in Tory Witney. A result which prevented the Conservatives from taking overall control of Oxfordshire.

James Semple said...

Down here in the deep blue SW we look to Exeter. They put their continued success down to constant door-to-door canvassing throughout the year. Every Saturday, rain or shine, teams go out across the city. Ben Bradshaw is also an effective and responsive constituency MP.

Speedy said...

You're the expert Phil, but local elections are not national ones. I would expect people to feel warmer towards Labour when they are voting for local councillors who they may know, or who have a say over when their rubbish gets collected, but at the GE they will be choosing between May or Corbyn or, if you're lucky, Leave or Remain. Maybe a wipe out is over-stated, but a 99 seat majority will still be the death of Labour, if the Corbyn faction spin this as a positive reason to remain.

Shai Masot said...

I don't think we would be any better off if we just went back to being Tory-lite. Nor do I think it would be credible for Jeremy to try getting into the gutter with the kippers and Blairites to fight for a chunk of the racist vote. I notice though that the areas in which we appear to have lost voters are areas where we fielded New Labour candidates (eg Copeland, Tees, Birmingham). So, maybe a winning answer would be for a) the Blairites to shut up, and b) for us to be true to our new selves and go full-on Corbynite.

Anonymous said...

That's unfair on our Tees Valley candidate, certainly - deeply cynical and underhand LibDem tactics played a major part in our "shock" defeat there.

Speedy said...

Mark Livingston - how is it not possible for you to understand that the places lost where "we were fielding New Labour candidates" were precisely the places that loathe Corbyn and long for a Labour that they feel represents their traditional values - which do not include CND and mass immigration?

I can only conclude the UK is caught in a pincer movement between baby boomers on the right, who voted Brexit, and on the left, who support Corbyn. What a fucking useless generation.

Shai Masot said...

Speedy. It's not complicated. The simple fact is that it's hard to win elections in areas where prominent Blairite MPs and council leaders tell local voters that Labour are crap/antisemitic/entryist/violent/London centric/unelectable etc. It's called electoral sabotage and Hunt, Reed, Turley, Blenkinsop, and Stuart are all guilty of it.

MikeB said...

The results beyond England are well worth considering too.

Here in Wales, predictions that the PLP (Petrified Labour Party) of the Valleys would fall to the Tories were largely refuted. Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr and Bridgend fell to Independents or no overall control. Plaid - offering an unambiguously radical, leftist, programme gained around 30 seats.

My impression on the ground (in BG) was that people have finally broken with the ghastly paternalist monolith of the Labour Party in the Valleys - and have voted for individuals who had a very "local politics" perspective. It reflected too a weariness and cynicism about national politics.

So the big "take homes" for me are

1. People are still open to radical ideas - but only if these are seen as growing out of connection to street-level concerns (follow Leanne Wood on FB - she works insanely hard at a local level, responds to comments in person, and still offers uncompromising progressive perspectives. Yes, OK, I am a big fan)

2.Alliance-building is critical - I'd suggest that Labour's damage in Wales was less than it might have been in part because they have been persuaded to adopt a joint approach to Brexit with Plaid. Contrast that with Scotland, where the attitude (at least from this distance) towards the SNP seems to have been more confrontational.

Shai Masot said...

MikeB. The "Independants" in the Wales Valleys were largely Corbynite socialists who left their local Blairite CLPs in disgust to offer the voters a proper socialist policy programme. That they did so and won speaks volumes. Valleys people are right to have rejected the ghastly paternalist monolith that is Welsh Labour.

SpiritSkill said...

I was standing outside a polling station in my town for 12 hours on Thursday.

The reason I was doing that is I was concerned that people who didn't want to vote for a local Conservative candidate would be discouraged from voting that way or discouraged from voting at all by the mob he had around him during the campaign and on the polling station steps.

Read that sentence again if you are unclear about the direction of travel in this country.

In that twelve hours I saw the Labour party candidate being aggressively questioned by Conservative party supporters, including ones under the influence of alcohol. I also saw him verbally abused and, finally, assaulted.

MikeB said...

@SpiritSkill - I have always been opposed to party activists (or anyone else) hanging about outside polling stations. At my own, party "tellers" sit outside the entrance and ask everyone who approaches, "Can I see your polling card, please?" They then tick you off on a list they have. They never explain their role or purpose, and it is very evident that some voters believe that this is part of the formal process for voting.

The opportunity for intimidation is obvious and is routinely taken - in other countries if not this one.

I had a discussion with my local Labour candidate about this last week. He seemed genuinely bewildered, as if the thought had never crossed his mind.

MikeB said...

@Mark Livingstone

The idea that the Valleys have overturned Blairite Labourites in favour of Corbynista "Independents" is attractive but I am highly sceptical. I don't know about anywhere else, but in Blaenau Gwent, of the elected "Independents" who unseated Labour councillors, only one had previously stood as a Labour candidate.

Meanwhile, people who were unsuccessful "Independents" in 2012 unseated sitting Labour councillors in six seats, and one got unseated by Plaid.

Which is hardly conclusive, but doesn't support your hypothesis.

Blissex said...

«Tories on 38%, Labour 27%, LibDems 18%, UKIP 5%. Remarkably, the 11 point difference has been hailed as not so bad a result by some. Incredible.»

It is not glorious, yet "electable" "charismatic" Tony Blair lost 464 seats in 2004, and the vote was IIRC 40% Conservative, 25% Labour.

Also, and this may seem a bit paradoxical, I dispute that the Conservatives won in the 2017 local election or that they are campaigning in the 2017 general election: the Conservatives did not win in 2010, won by a sliver in 2015, lost the referendum in 2016, and their leaders even left politics.
May is campaigning this year for the English Nationalist Party, not the Conservative Party, and that explains the enormous transfer of votes from UKIP to her party.

Labour all considered is doing pretty well: it has lost some of the "Remain" voters to the Liberals, and a tiny amount of votes to the English Nationalist Party, but that was inevitable, as unlike the english nationalist wing of the Conservatives, it would not engineer a complete internal revolution and rebranding.

Blissex said...

«at the GE they will be choosing between May or Corbyn or, if you're lucky, Leave or Remain.»
«I don't think we would be any better off if we just went back to being Tory-lite.»

As to this debate, imagine that Mandelson's fantasies came true and Corbyn and McDonnel were replaced by the perfect leadership couple, a perfect fit for the mandelsonian political strategy, Blair clones, "Remainers", liberal-tories, never had "socialist" leanings even when young, had always “championed aspirational voters who shop at John Lewis and Waitrose”, had proven their popularity with "middle England": Cameron and Clegg!

If Cameron was leader and Clegg shadow chancellor, campaigning on cancellation of Brexit and a Coalition-like programme, would Labour be guaranteed to win this general election? If not, who could?

Shai Masot said...



The only good Blairite is an ousted Blairite. Keir Hardy would be lovin' it.

MikeB said...

@Mark Livingstone

Thanks for that. Unfortunately, the skwawkbox piece you link to contains no numbers or evidence, only an opinion backed by a link to a piece by a Mirror journalist who asserts that, "many" of the new independents "are former Labour members and back socialist policies". No figures, no evidence, just an assertion.

I would like to believe that there is some kind of socialist revival going on in the Valleys, I really would. But that doesn't tally with my experience on the ground, and it will take more than unevidenced opinion to change my mind.

jim mclean said...

So the gains under Blair are to be abandoned so why fight the Tories as they are in the process of reversing them anyway. Now Keir Hardy he left us such a grand heritage. He was an outright racist, he opposed all immigration and had a deep and bitter contempt for anyone not of British Protestant stock and would have supported repatriation. Not a great hero.

Keir Hardie - a Message to the Ayrshire Miners
“For this second time in their history, Messrs. Merry and Cunninghame have introduced a number of Russian Poles to Glengarnock Ironworks. What object they have in doing so is beyond human ken unless it is, as stated by a speaker at Irvine, to teach men how to live on garlic and oil, or introduce the Black Death, so as to get rid of the surplus labourers"

SpiritSkill said...


There have been comments on the town's Facebook page about the tellers from ordinary members of the public who had no idea of their role.

In addition to the matters I have alluded to above I heard people being routinely asked for their addresses if they didn't have a polling card and asked to note their number at the desk in the polling station and bring it out with them after they have voted.

Boffy said...

Its normal practice for any party that wants to know if it has got its vote out. People are free to refuse to give their number, if they choose. No one asks how voters have voted other than the polling companies carrying out exit polls.

There is no intimidation here, and if there was the police are there to prevent it.