The local elections are over and the headline story is clearly one of UKIP breakthrough. The Conservatives did almost exactly as badly as expected, losing around 335 seats and control of 10 councils, Labour did about as well as expected in terms of seats, gaining just under 300, but only two councils (Nottingham and Derbyshire, Staffordshire surprisingly remained Tory). The Liberal Democrat lost a lot of voters, but only around 125 seats. UKIP gained around 140 councillors – doing particularly well in Norfolk and Lincolnshire, both of which fell into No Overall Control with UKIP the second largest party.

The BBC’s Projected National Share of the vote was CON 25%, LAB 29%, LDEM 14%, UKIP 23%. The results for both the Conservatives and Labour are strikingly low… but this is more an artefact of the high level of UKIP support. I’ve said it in almost every post I’ve made this week, but note again what the Projected National Share of the vote is and isn’t.

It is a projection of what the BBC think the shares of local vote would be if there were elections across the whole country and if all four parties stood in every council division. In other words, it takes account and corrects for the fact that only rather Toryish parts of the county voted, and that UKIP and the Lib Dems only stood in three-quarters of the divisions. Secondly, it isn’t the votes that were actually cast – if you totted up the votes cast in every ward on Thursday you’d come up with a different, but probably less meaningful, number. Thirdly, it’s not an attempt to measure or predict national support for a general election – general elections have much higher turnout and, more importantly, people can and do vote differently in them.

However, there are some useful things we can tell from the voting patterns on Thursday, especially about UKIP support. Firstly look at the vote shares and the number of seats won. UKIP got a PNS of 23% (we don’t know what their actual share was, but we’ll work with the projected shares for now), the Liberal Democrats of 14%. However, the Liberal Democrats won 352 seats in total, UKIP 147. It’s an excellent illustration of the importance of vote distribution – look at the detailled results and there are swathes of country where the Lib Dems get truly derisory votes, and strong areas where they win. In comparison UKIP tended to do pretty well across the board, getting lots of second places even where they didn’t win (in the BBC’s key wards they came second more than any other party).

While we’ve seen the general level of UKIP support growing across the country, this is also our first chance to see exactly where it is strong. The places UKIP tended to win the most seats were peripheral towns, outlying places, often the coast, often economic backwaters in a way, places like Boston, Spalding, Great Yarmouth, Thanet, Folkstone, the area around Bognor. Some of these areas, like the Norfolk and Lincolnshire Fens, are areas that have seen high levels of Eastern European immigration. Others are popular retirement locations and we know there is very strong correlation between age and voting UKIP. This seems to make sense, although one should be slightly cautious about accepting conclusions because they seem intuitively correct, there’s plenty more work to be done here.

Finally there is the impact on the political narrative. While I think Labour did pretty respectably, they were clearly overshadowed by UKIP in terms of coverage so it’s not going to give them much momentum. Rather the impact will be all about UKIP – the publicity boost and the further perception that they are a serious player will likely translate into higher levels of support in the polls in the short term at least, but there will also be the impact on the other parties, particularly the Conservatives. The Tories did not do horribly badly, so don’t seem to be in full meltdown, but do look spooked. Already there are lots of Conservative MPs scampering off to the press to tell that that the policy they happen to want to see enacted is also – what a shocker – the key to defeating UKIP.

What the Tories should really do probably deserves a post in its own right, but suffice to say there is no easy answer. UKIP support is driven by various factors – an anti-immigration vote (and anti-EU to some degree), an anti-government vote, and anti-establishment and anti-politics vote. While UKIP is a radical right-wing party rather than a left-wing party, I suspect it also has much in common with the recent successes for parties like the Five Star Movement in Italy – a expression of rage against a political establishment that is only offering unpleasant medicine in already difficult times.

All of these are tricky to deal with – stopping immigration or bringing back major powers from Europe are, in practical terms, almost impossible for Cameron to deliver so he cannot realistically give voters what they say they want on those fronts, he cannot outflank UKIP on those policies and addressing them half-heartedly only puts them up the agenda (or sends the message to people that voting UKIP does successfully move Tory policy!). The party of government can by definition never capture an anti-establishment, anti-politics vote – there will always be some people who dislike both Labour and Conservative and want an alternative, any alternative.

What the Conservatives can seek to do is reduce anti-government voting, they’ll hope by being able to point to some economic progress at some point, by presenting an image of competence and ability, by reducing noises-off and disunity and maintaining a clear message and purpose. Of course, this is probably also the best way for the Conservatives to win support from non-voters, from Labour and Lib Dem voters, or from anyone else (it is also rather dull and obvious advice – govern well – so don’t expect many columnists to waste their time with it).

242 Responses to “Some thoughts on the local elections”

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  1. Cheesewolf

    Without commenting directly on the case that’s come to light tonight, I can think of few scarier thoughts for the Tories at the moment than a by-election in a rural constituency where their vote in 2010 was roughly equal to that of Lab and LD combined ( the two being equally split) and UKIP were nowhere.

    They then have their nightmare of a battle on both fronts. Tack right and LD/Lab tactical voting could put either within punching distance and UKIP stealing votes from them could tip the balance in a seat in which the Tories have never been remotely in danger in the past, even in 1997. Alternatively, if they DON’T tack right, it’s not beyond imagination that UKIP could generate their own momentum and actually win the damn seat. Or at least give the Tories the fright of their lives.

  2. @ Rich

    Indeed fairly good economic figures and hopefully they will last (I’m old enough to remember the 6-month swings in the 1970s). It would be good if there was a private sector investment boom (as I said many times professionally I don’t care with public sector investment boom without radical changes in the institutional system).

    However, even in the best scenario, I can’t see how it could change perceptions (considering real wage cuts and worsening working conditions).

    There’s no permanent crisis. Sooner or later it will start to grow. But I really doubt if the narrative of growth as a government achievement could be sold especially as Labour started to shift its own narrative from effectiveness to efficiency.

  3. @blazeway

    That PNS is just nonsense. How can 26 percent in the Tory shires equate to 29 nationally. The BBC should be pulled up for it. Plus I don’t suppose they counted the by election or the Mayor votes. Also it is being very misrepresented in the press as the projected GE result whereas it is projected Local election result.

  4. CB11
    Whatever ‘surges’ are going on are going on within only a third of the electorate in the vast rural areas of England and the run down market towns within that electorally anaemic vastness, and this is not determinate for the 2015 GE.

    The UK elections under FPTP are decided in the urban areas of the country where the marginals are situated.

    There is evidence that some working class voters in such areas may vote for anyone who will get rid of immigrants (even though they can’t). These voters may be as unhelpful to Labour as they are to Conservative but it’s the elderly isolationist, normally Conservative, voters who are the danger to Cameron’s Party and as I see it, he can do nothing about it. By their voting for UKIP they give the result to Ed Miliband.

    AW and colleagues are to delve into the issue and we must await to see whether I am detecting the vibes or otherwise.

  5. Howard
    Being Anti-EU doesn’t make voters isolatonist – the contrary if anything, as being in the EU makes trade with the rest of the world more difficult.

  6. Just imagine if UKIP were not around, then in 2015 all of the “fed up with incumbent” and “protest vote” would go to Labour.

    Just imagine the landslide they would have!

    I ran the prediction with Labour 45%, cons 35%, lib dem 15%, other 10%.

    I get a 142 seat majority.

  7. “That gives Tories reasonable grounds to hope that many can be won back at a general election, when they will present the choice as a binary one between David Cameron and Ed Miliband. There is only one problem with this strategy. It requires the Tories to keep their heads and holding their nerve is something they find hard to do for two minutes, never mind two years.”

    The above from Andrew Rawnsley sums it up well.

  8. @ Pete B

    The French and especially the Germans trade with the rest of the world pretty well. You will need a different argument.

    The anti-EU stance is not isolationist, it is ignorant. I’m looking forward to the unwinding of about 9,000 laws (or if staying in the EEA, keeping all of them, no change whatsoever, but not being a member).

  9. Crossbat.

    The next 6 months could be one of the most Important in modern UK political history. I’d still bet that the Tories will see off the UKIP challenge one way or another, and that most WILL return to the fold by 2015.

    But it’s a fine call.

    UKIP are teetering on the edge of falling into the region marked “Credible Political Party”. If they become established as such, then the Tories may well be facing their SDP scenario.

    A big by-election win (see above) and/or a set of high-profile defections and suddenly you have a very serious party. And then, the approach of saying, “Vote Tory or you let Labour in” has no more traction than Labour’s plea to left-leaners not to vote SDP had in the 80s.

  10. & Blazeaway

    YouGov’s polling has consistenntly shown UKIP drawing 4-7 times the more 2010 Consvervative than Labour voters.

    The regional cross-breaks have shown UKIP doing best in the East and South -East, and least well in Scotland, Wales and London.

    There is a huge question as to how to extrapolate these county council election results into areas where UKIP does not appear to have much support .

  11. I wished people would stop going on about SDP, i’m sure all situations are unique.

    when we start hearing the “vote UKIP will let Labour in” scarmongering then we will know UKIP really are in a good positon to pick up seats in 2015.

    A few hundred people could change the face of british politics if they spearhead their local UKIP party to massive gains, those like the lib dem spearheads, but combined with a local “surge” could have a massive effect.

  12. CB11

    Well done re Villa

    [not that you did anything much yourself I suppose apart from worry]

  13. Ribble Valley
    Very safe Conservative seat.

    2010 Result:
    Conservative: 26298 (50.3%)
    Labour: 11529 (22%)
    Lib Dem: 10732 (20.5%)
    UKIP: 3496 (6.7%)
    Others: 232 (0.4%)
    MAJORITY: 14769 (28.2%)

  14. @ james E

    These voters UKIP are gaining are “floating” voters. If this had happended in 2005 people 2would be labelling these voters as Labour voters.

    I and my better half voted Labour in 1997(aged 20), 2001 and 2005, switched to conservative 2010, and will vote UKIP in 2015. Now you can argue we are Conservative becuase we votedfor them in 2010 but we are really “new Labour” who have lost the faith especially towards EM, who is not New Labour

  15. Mark Johnson

    A partisan waffle is a very tasty piece of confectionery, not unlike a chocolate and fresh cream éclair or jam doughnut.

    In fact it’s one on of my favourite little indulgences and at its very best when taken with a nice cup of warm cocoa, topped off by a late night YouGov poll showing a double-digit Labour lead.

  16. Opinium/Observer poll, which offers little cheer for the mainstream parties – but plenty for Nigel Farage’s buoyant Ukip.

    The survey, taken between Tuesday and Thursday last week, shows Labour unchanged from two weeks ago on 35%, the Tories down one percentage point on 28%, Ukip unchanged on 17% and the Liberal Democrats up one percentage point on 9%.

  17. Mike Smithson [email protected]

    Opinium/Observer online poll. LAB 35, CON 28, Ukip 17, LD 9%. Just 31% see Ed Miliband as a future PM.

    Mike Smithson [email protected]

    Only change in Opinium poll from 2 wks ago – CON -1 LD+1

  18. Just 31% of people said they could see Miliband as prime minister, with 11% saying they could “definitely” envisage him in Downing Street and 20% saying they could probably see him the top job.

    The findings represent a small improvement on September last year, when only 28% of voters said they saw him as a potential prime minister.

  19. Opinium/Observer poll:

    The net approval ratings for the three party leaders put Cameron narrowly ahead on a net score of -19 (32% approving and 51% disapproving) compared to -20 for Miliband (23% approving and 43% disapproving), while Nick Clegg is on -45 (14% approving and 59% disapproving).

  20. The Lib Dems took Ribble Valley in the 1991 by-election, so it has gone to non-Tory parties before under exceptional circumstances. I think it’s probably a three-way marginal right now (Tory-Labour-Ukip).

    Dorries lost the whip for going on a reality TV show, without asking the Whip’s Office, while Parliament was sitting. Except for the potential domino effect I suspect the Tories would say Ukip is welcome to her.

  21. @Amber Star:
    That looks like a very interesting “test seat”: It’s a Tory seat, it’s not marginal by a long shot…so the Tories “should” have trouble keeping their people home, especially since Labour is still /way/ off in this seat on a UNS. Likewise, the LibDems should (if patterns to date hold) lose a good slab of support as well.

    It’s far from an ideal UKIP pickup opportunity, but it’s also not an unbelievable one: UKIP did save their deposit there at the last election, after all.

  22. @sy

    I’m looking at how those who now say they’d support UKIP in a General Election previously voted. In particular, there must be an issue as to how to extrapolate the 2/5/13 county council results – particularly since Labour “did OK” in seats where they appeared to have a chance of winning.

    The fact that you and your partner voted labour in 2005 and before does not invalidate Yougov’s previous polls .

  23. @ Sy

    Didn’t you realise that both New Labour & New Tory were in favour of the EU, immigration (“to meet business needs”)?

    I’m guessing you decided based on leader personality because I can almost see why you’d move from being a Blair supporter to being a Cameron supporter to being a Farage supporter.

  24. I voted labour because they stood for the working man/women, now im not sure what EM stands for. I am also not sure how the lib dems are differnent from Labour. The tories are seen in my ex-mining town, with lots of new houses(where I live) as out of touch with the working man/woman.

    Locally Labour who in the past had several(upto 10) seats uncontested at local levels, have let the people down.
    At local elections I have had 1 labour flyer in 13 years of living here, comes across as arogrant. Never have I heard from a cllrs, or what they do ever. I have also heard from long time members, who have long term family as cllrs about “shenanigans” to be polite, puts people off main stream politics.

    Large cllrs expense accounts, council wastage, large council management wages, and it creates a perfect storm.

  25. @ Gray

    A Ribble Valley by-election could be a lucky break (heavily disguised!) for the Tories. If they can hold Ribble Valley as convincingly as Labour held South Shields it will be a big boost for their moral.

  26. @sy

    I’m not interested in your personal voting history.

    I am asking how the 2/5/13 CountyCouncil Election results were covertrd to ” National” vote share.

  27. Didn’t you realise that both New Labour & New Tory were in favour of the EU, immigration

    Yes. And the Lib Dems are even more pro-europe. What’s your point?

    I wanted to vote for a mainstream party who had a chance of governance, so had no mainstream party with an alternative opinion.
    I have voted UKIP in the european elections.
    Also I am an economics graduate, so am educated from young about these issues. I just want a debate on europe, which a referendum would create.

  28. @Spearmint: Absent actually getting numbers on how the seat is looking, I tend to agree. Labour got the gains in Lancashire at the local elections, but who knows what happened “under the hood” there (i.e. did UKIP contest there? Was there a lot of vote splitting? Erc.). So I agree…tentative three-way marginal.

  29. In Scotland, a lot of people may not want independence, but they do want the discussion and want to consulted on the decision.

    Lets have an EU debate every 15 years, not telling younger people that we’re in now so you have to accept that.

  30. @Paul Croft

    “Well done re Villa”

    Thanks and you’re quite right; my main and only contribution to our recent upturn in fortunes was to worry a lot! In fact, when I heard that Norwich had equalised, and that Wigan had done so too, my reaction was to go on one my now trademark 20 minute walks around the neighbourhood, minus mobile phone so I can’t be contacted by relatives and mocking Birmingham and Albion fans of my acquaintance. In fact, circa 4.30pm on a Saturday afternoon, I’ve become a bit of a fixture around these parts with neighbours giving me a knowing and sympathetic wave as I trudge anxiously past their houses. Occasionally, but not often thankfully, one or two shout abuse (“Bottled it again, have you, you Villa t*s*er!”) but most wish me well as I continue my doleful pilgrimage, returning to my house at about 5.00pm to find out how things have turned out. Usually, one of my neighbours, Clive, intercepts me, a wolfish and impish grin playing on his Birmingham-supporting features. “Have you heard the results?” “No”, I reply, “what’s happened”, feigning disinterest and apathy, but, in reality, a strange and growing anxiety surging through my angst-ridden body, combined with a need to be put out of my misery. “Villa fluked it, the jammy……………..”. Clive’s voice fades into the distance as I open my front door, elation coursing through those claret and blue veins!

    It’s a wonderful distraction and escape is football. What I call one of life’s joyful trivialities.

  31. @ Amber,

    Good point. Sort of an Eastleigh moment.

    Although if it comes to that the Tories will have another problem, because that’s their candidate to replace Bercow gone. They’ll be stuck with Lindsay Hoyle, who’s kinder to them than Bercow but not as indulgent as Evans. And with the mood on their backbenches so febrile and every other party in the Commons hostile to them, I could see the internal politics of a deputy speaker election getting pretty fraught.

  32. @ Sy

    What’s your point?

    I wanted to vote for a mainstream party who had a chance of governance…
    That’s my point.

  33. The EU also needs to know that we need powers back from EU, like border control and law, or we leave

  34. Crossbat11

    But the trouble with a partisan waffle is that everyone wants different toppings.

  35. @ Sy

    Sorry, I didn’t finish my previous before I sent it.

    My point being, that were UKIP not to field a candidate in your area, or not have any chance of winning, you probably wouldn’t vote for them because you are clearly not a ‘protest’ voter.

  36. Opinium summary and link to tables is here:

    Combined others now equals to Conservative rating (28%). Not that that actually means anything.

  37. Amber Star

    I dont get your point, I voted for Labour and Cnservative at a GE because they were the parties that I believed in at the time, and there was no socialist or euro-skeptict party around! I cant invent a party to vote for.

  38. UKIP polled less well on Thursday in the NW than in the UK as a whole.

    Even so, Ribble Valley would be a fight between UKIP and Con. Labour would start well bt would soon lose ground.

    Labour supporters are very likely to vote UKIP to keep the Conservatives out.

    Probably less than 3,000 votes between Conservatives and UKIP.

  39. My point being, that were UKIP not to field a candidate in your area, or not have any chance of winning, you probably wouldn’t vote for them because you are clearly not a ‘protest’ voter.
    Yes correct if UKIP were not to field a candidate in my area I would not vote for them, nor would it be possible for me to vote for them, the most bizare comment on here ever!

  40. @Amber Star

    Are you saying Nigel Farage is “heir to Blair”?

    Let’s look at the facts. Farage was born exactly 9 months before Churhill died (I’m assuming asymmetric four-dimensional transmigration of souls here), he now lives in Westerham (to be closer to the brick wall he built in his former life).

    By my calculation Farage will be PM in 2018… or should that be 1910?

  41. Billybob.

    I doubt there will be an election in 2018.

    I think massive breakthrough in 2020, PM by 2025, unless he steps into another light aircraft or gets involved with exereme sports.

    So what when NF is gone? Paul Nutall, I think ex-Labour is an amazing candidate and is far more straight talking than any westminster MP, except maybe Nadine Doris.

    She talks sense, despite the media rubbish, she makes me proud to vote conservative

  42. Honestly? As a Labour voter I think I would have to hold my nose and vote Tory if it came down to Tory or UKIP.

    Hypothetically of course. Our MP is a Tory now but the CLP is pretty strong and they held the seat from ’97 to ’09.

  43. an AV vote would be interesting in 2015, not sure who it would benefit

  44. @ Sy

    I meant to say: If UKIP didn’t field a candidate, you wouldn’t vote for another Party; & if UKIP didn’t field a potentially winning candidate, you wouldn’t vote. Is that correct or have I misunderstood you?

  45. @ Sy

    “Lets have an EU debate every 15 years, not telling younger people that we’re in now so you have to accept that.”

    Fine by me, so long as we can equivalent “debates” on NATO, the UN, and all other bodies to whom we have voluntarily yielded elements of sovereignty in exchange for greater benefits.

    (By the way, “debates” in modern parlance always almost seems to mean “people aren’t listening to my opinion, so I want a chance to shout my opposition down”).

  46. Why does nobody talk about the most pro-european party in the UK? The lib dems who would have us in the Euro? No local lib dem ever mentions that.

    They never campaign that we are pró europe, total frauds, and now in power their vote ha collapsed in 80% of wards.

  47. “she makes me proud to vote conservative”

    Except that you say that you voted Labour in the 1997, 2001 and 2005 General elections.

    Are you claiming that Nadine would have done the same. or that the Labour party you voted for reflected the politics of Nadine Dorries?

  48. Miserable old git

    I agree totally, we need to talk to the electorate and get consensus, they vote for us.

    We should vote on Nato, nuclear weapons, and esp. wars.

    If 20% of the electoral voting people sign a petition, then a referedum should be held

  49. Didn’t the LibDem 2010 manifesto include a referendum on the EU?

  50. If I as a nobody, could get rid of one thing in UK politics it would be whips, it is apphorent that MP’s that have been by their electorate, cant vote with their electorate because the “whips” control politics.

    UKIP has no whips, and people will vote with that.

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