After every local election I start with the same warning – local elections are not general elections. Fewer people vote, on different issues, and for some who don’t vote on local issues it’s an opportunity for a mid-term protest vote. They aren’t a prediction of the general election. That does not, however, mean that local elections tell is nothing about the bigger picture and it certainly doesn’t mean they don’t have a massive impact on the wider political narrative and public opinion. What can we pick up from last night’s results so far?

Let’s start with UKIP. At the most basic level UKIP have obviously done very well. As I write the BBC suggest they are getting about 25% of the vote in wards they contest (though much worse in London) and have gained about 100 councillors. Two things to put this in context though – the first is that this is roughly the same level of support as they got at the local elections last year. I don’t really know if that’s good or bad for them. At one level they’ve sustained last year’s advance, it’s not a flash in the pan and they are more firmly establishing themselves as a major force. On the other hand, these are local elections on the same day as the European election… shouldn’t they be improving on last year? Second caveat, their vote is still very evenly spread. They are getting many more votes than the Lib Dems, but far fewer councillors. As was the case last year, UKIP are doing fantastically well at coming second in many places and that doesn’t build the council base they require in target seats for the general election. They have made some breakthroughs though – most notably in Essex councils like Thurrock and Basildon where they took seats from both parties, pushing Labour Thurrock and Tory Basildon into no overall control. They’ve also done extremely well in Rotherham.

Moving onto Labour, their results nationwide seem a little lacklustre. They’ll be pleased with the performance in London where they’ve gained several councils, most notably the Tory “flagship” of Hammersmith & Fulham, but they’ve made only sporadic progress elsewhere. As I write John Curtice doesn’t seem to have produced a projected national share yet, but he’s suggested they are up only 3% since 2010 so it sounds like it could be a very anaemic Labour lead. I think the bottom line for Labour is that their local election performance is much like their performance in general election polls. They aren’t an opposition that is soaring ahead in the opinion polls, they’re an opposition that has a very modest lead in the opinion polls. These aren’t soaring local election gains, they are modest local election gains.

The Tory performance is the mirror image of that. They are losing seats and councils, but not disasterously so. They’ve done badly against Labour in London and will be sorry to have lost Hammersmith & Fulham, but happy they have some gains here and there to weigh against it.

Finally the Lib Dems. Horrid council results have become par for the course for them, and these seats were last fought at the height of “Cleggmania” so losses are to be expected. The party normally comfort themselves with the defence that the party do far better in areas where they have sitting MPs. As usual, this is true in some cases, but not in others. The Lib Dems have held their own in places like Colchester, Sutton and Eastleigh… but they’ve also lost ground in Lib Dem held areas like Richmond, Kingston, Haringey and Cambridge, so it’s swings and roundabouts. Either way it is a continuing hollowing out of Lib Dem support as they retreat back towards islands of support around some of their sitting MPs.

And to the wider impact? To some degree we’re still in a holding pattern until Sunday, but the questions are straightforward enough. For UKIP it is how much of a boost they get from today’s successes (however impressive you think they actually are, the media narrative this morning is all “UKIP SURGE!”) and how long that lasts. For the other three parties it is to what extent they hold their nerve – overnight there were a couple of “Tories should have a pact with UKIP” from the Tory backbenches and a few grumbles from the Labour backbenches, but these were all from the usual suspects, the Rees-Moggs and Stringers of this world, who were saying these things anyway. Wait and see if it holds over the next few days and the Euro elections.


594 Responses to “Local election thoughts”

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  1. Ed

    Just read a stat that Barking – which has gone entirely Labour – has seen it’s % of white population reduce from 81% to 49.5% from the 2001 census to 2011 census. Neighbouring Newham is now entirely Labour too – I think 51 out of 51 seats. It saw an even bigger change in population

    The main reason that Barking has such a big increase was that it has a small percentage to begin with. There’s some interesting charts in this Census Report:

    http://www.migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/sites/files/migobs/Briefing%20-%20London%20census%20profile_0.pdf

    However if you believe that the ‘gains’ were caused by recent immigration you’re mistaken. Both these boroughs were also entirely Labour in 2010, any changes were due to Labour councillors defecting – often recently after they had been deselected.

    Furthermore these two councils have been the two strongest Labour boroughs in London since they were formed back in 1964 – no other Party has ever had control in either and there has frequently been no opposition at all especially in Newham.

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  2. Yes in those borough’s there’s been changes from one set of strong Labour voters to other Labour voters (perhaps even stronger in allegiance).

    The interesting thing is in boroughs like Barnet or Croydon which went Labour today. Areas that are more finely balanced in recent years but where rising numbers of immigrants could have pushed things towards Labour. Then there’s places like Camden which I think has gone almost entirely Labour. Labour were very strong but are now dominant.

    Add in domestic immigrants 0(is that a thing? Maybe migrants) from the rest of the UK who tend to be be young and middle class, which is another strong labour group now, and that is why London’s results are so divergent from the rest of the country, and why that difference will continue long term.

    Immigration is not reducing to any great degree into London, and immigrants vote heavily labour. I can’t see any other party getting anywhere except the fringes of wealthy suburbs and that will reduce in the near future (eg Bexley)

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  3. Apologies for the misplaced apostrophes above.

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  4. @OldNat

    I’m coming up to see you boys for a week or so, staying in Fort William (cottage by the Caledonian Canal) and the good Mrs H and I are hoping to conquer Ben Nevis while we’re there. We got Snowdon and Sca Fell Pike under our belts over the last two years and now we’re going for the Big One! Haven’t been to Scotland for 40 years and I’m greatly looking forward to it. I shall obviously persuade anyone I meet that it is imperative they stay in the Union. Better Together and all that! We’re also planning on taking the ferry to Skye while we’re in the vicinity. It will be a nostalgic trip on behalf of my 90 year old father who is currently in hospital. I’ve promised to get him a photo of the Broadford Hotel where he honeymooned with my Mum in 1952. They loved Skye and returned there many times. I may have to get him a bit of Talisker Malt Whiskey too!

    Adieu then, for a week or so, to all my readers, and to those of them who sympathise with my politics, keep the faith. It wasn’t a bad day for Labour at all on Thursday. One big heave required in May next year, though

    Happy Whitsun to all on UKPR.

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  5. @OldNat

    I’m coming up to see you boys for a week or so, staying in Fort William (cottage by the Caledonian Canal) and the good Mrs H and I are hoping to conquer Ben Nevis while we’re there. We got Snowdon and Sca Fell Pike under our belts over the last two years and now we’re going for the Big One! Haven’t been to Scotland for 40 years and I’m greatly looking forward to it. I shall obviously persuade anyone I meet that it is imperative they stay in the Union. Better Together and all that. We’re also planning on taking the ferry to Skye while we’re in the vicinity. It will be a nostalgic trip on behalf of my 90 yeard old father who is currently in hospital. I’ve promised to get him a photo of the Broadford Hotel where he honeymooned with my Mum in 1952. They loved Skye and returned there many times. I may have to get him a bit of Talisker Malt Whiskey too!

    Adieu then, for a week or so, to all my readers, and to those of them who sympathise with my politics, keep the faith. It wasn’t a bad night for Labour at all on Thursday.

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  6. @Crossbat11:
    A happy Memorial Day Weekend to all of you from the US.

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  7. HOWARD

    I see you were correct about the “Conference” date & Ashcroft’s Poll.

    He released this today :-

    http://lordashcroftpolls.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/LORD-ASHCROFT-POLLS-Post-Euro-Election-Poll-Summary-May-2014.pdf

    Unless DC can find an answer to “Immigration” it would seem that there will be slim pickings from UKIP Euro voters , for Cons next year.

    As it stands-a 10% greater share than Labour.

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  8. The Beeb and Press are still going on about how well on the “earthquake” of UKIP’s success, and that Lab need to re-examine their approach.

    Fiddlesticks!

    Labour won well over 300 seats yesterday and did especially well in target seats in London and other places (e.g. Manchester Withington where I was brought up). They are on course to win in 2015 (providing they don’t lose 40 or so MPs due to a YES vote on 18/9/14). Even places such as Rotherham where UKIP did especially well yesterday are not seriously at risk of being lost in a GE.

    IMO, UKIP were boosted in the locals as they coincided with the Euro elections, but even so, their share of the English national vote was less than in the 2013 locals. I voted Lab in the 2010 GE (although this was just a token as I now live in a seat that has been Con since 1918), but lent my vote to a more Eurosceptic party on Thursday (there were no local elections where I now live). I suspect that there are many other older voters (in seats that do matter in 2015) whose dislike of the EU is long-standing (I voted NO in 1975), but who will revert to traditional parties for the GE.

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  9. “As I write the BBC suggest they are getting about 25% of the vote in wards they contest (though much worse in London)”

    So therefore much higher than 25% in the rest of the country.

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  10. @Far Easterner No. 25% (ish) in seats they contested outside London, much lower ISTC in London, 0% in seats they didn’t contest (obvs). John Curtice’s projected national share yesterday was 17%, which considering the media hype is not really all that much if an earthquake is it?

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  11. Oh the glories of First Past The Post.

    UKIP could get a quarter of the vote in every constituency in the land and not get a single seat!

    I think Lab will get nearly 40% of the vote next time but it is looking like a good chunk of that might go UKIP…without affecting the result hardly at all. Labour may all get a healthy majority on user 35% of the vote with the Government parties about 30% and 10%.

    UKIP will outscore LD and get nowt.

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  12. I don’t understand why Labour have allowed the narrative of the local elections being negative for them and how they ignored the threat of UKIP. This to me seems a load of nonsense, as they have gained nearly 300 seats, including many in the south of England. This comes only four years, after their second worst general election result in history.

    Is this a deliberate act of showing voters they don’t take their votes for granted and have to win them ?

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  13. This is no earthquake, but it is a tremor, IMO UKIP are here to stay, but nothing suggests they are going to get MPs. They will change the debate because all parties need the people who have voted for them.

    The Labour result looks a bit like their result in 1991, much less good than Cameron in 2009. But historical precedents will be broken next year. I think there was just about enough hope in the LibDem vote to spare Clegg, but really, they are getting slaughtered.

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  14. Some interesting points in that Ashcroft poll. Tory and Labour voters overwhelmingly voted on their Westminster preferences whereas LibDems and UKIPs voted on Europe. And only half of UKIP’s voters will stay with the party next year with the others splitting two-to-one Tory over Labour. Tories over-represented in the Euro electorate – 40% identifying as 2010 voters.

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  15. Local elections always have so many results that it is necessary to sit back and take it all in before really deciding who did well. I think the media fell into that trap yesterday morning when they were reporting an unrepresentative sample of seats on district councils in Essex and second places in metropolitan boroughs where Labour have never had any effective opposition as an ‘earthquake’.

    What does, finally, seem to have sunk in is that UKIP voters are not, on the whole, right-wing Tory Eurosceptics who can be appeased by hard-talk on Europe and immigration. They are, as academic research has been saying for a while to be fair, made of the ‘left-behinds’ and large swathes of white, working class voters. They are certainly hitting both parties. Yes, they are taking predominantly 2010 Tories but pre-UKIP these voters might have gone to the opposition. I think the Tories need to try and re-connect with these voters somehow. Will be hard but can be done.

    Labour’s night wasn’t a disaster, certainly not in terms of council seats. They are doing well where there is still in effect a two-party system. This can explain much of their success in London where the LDs have all but died outside of a few boroughs in the SW and also in some of the Northern cities where they have increased their dominance this time round. It must give them some hope for the GE in London though it is a different business dethroning popular local MPs’ than a council administration that might have been in power for 8 or more years. The national share projections are in line with recent polls and, yes, that probably makes them second favourites for the GE.

    As for the Euros I’m not sure we’re any wiser than we were before yesterday!

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  16. @Keith P – “immigrants in the vicinity”

    Labour say they are going to talk more about immigration, Miliband’s speeches on this subject so far have been an attempt to shift the debate onto abuses in the labour market… for example, trade unions have taken measures to prevent firms importing teams of workers in order to circumvent local pay agreements (in some cases this has resulted in companies having to backdate pay increases to these teams of workers, and an end to the practice).

    As has been mentioned there are many French people here in the SE… well on a good day I can see the France across the ditch… I see these people as people, not immigrants.

    Thankfully the days when there was such a paranoia about “French spies” are behind us… when Coleridge and Wordsworth were staying on the south coast they were followed at a distance by a detective (Coleridge would loudly address him as Mr Bignose) sent down from London because locals thought they talked “foreign”.

    @Ed upthread is now using the term of “domestic immigrants/migrants” to describe anyone who changes their location within the UK.

    This use of immigration rhetoric to obsure all other issues is reaching dangerous proportions. I personally know two frail elderly people in their eighties and nineties who are now anxious about going out onto the street. Both have lived in England their entire adult lives, but one is an Italian, and the other an Austrian “immigrant”.

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  17. While we wait for the Euro results, let’s mention the on other election to go before all change next year.

    Newark.

    If UKIP take votes mostly from Con and Lab take LD votes we could have a 3-way marginal all of a sudden. Lab did win here in 1997. If Lab voters switch to UKIP they could take it, possibly comfortably. Or if the Tories hold well, that could give them a boost for the final push.

    Only certain casualties are likely to be LD.

    What do we think…close 3 ways? Straightforward Con hold? Or UKIP gaining their first seat?

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  18. @Jack Sheldon

    Agreed! Quite how labour has managed to disconnect with the white working class I do not know. Both main parties will struggle to reconnect, they need a working class hero, but who?

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  19. Daodoa & Nick P

    To be honest I think you are fooling yourselves if you think labour are on course for victory or that they will get anywhere near 35% . It is the job of the press to get Cameron to move to the Right and get those kippers back in the fold.

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  20. Bad expectations management from Labour. I doubt that it will matter too much, though.

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  21. @Pressman

    To be honest I think you are fooling yourselves if you think labour are on course for victory or that they will get anywhere near 35% . It is the job of the press to get Cameron to move to the Right and get those kippers back in the fold.

    Thanks for putting me right. For years I have had the mistaken belief that the media was there to objectively report the news….

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  22. @ Jack Sheldon

    You could be right, but I think it’s regional or even ward level. By and large in the NW the UKIP vote is antti-Labour vote, not voters who used to vote for Labour.

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  23. Captain America of course

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  24. @Daodao and NickP and Pressman

    That Labour may win the GE in 2015 is not the real issue. The real issue will be to gather the authority to take the horrendous decisions (for the Left) which will need to be taken on the economy. Let’s face it, if the Tories have not been able to deal with the deficit, where do we think Labour are going to find the courage to do so?

    A government elected on 32–33% of the vote simply will not have a big enough majority nor the moral support of the country; and that’s before we start to ask how the House of Lord would behave in such circumstances!

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  25. @NickP

    I believe there have been boundary changes since ’97 which favoured the Tories but I have a massive £4 placed on a Labour victory.

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  26. @Billy Bob

    I think there is a danger that talking more about immigration could be damaging for Labour.

    There are voters (like me) who are put off the more a party makes an issue of immigration as a negative. I don’t like the way the immigration debate has been handled by the media and political parties, and think it has created a monster.

    For every vote they may gain, they could lose a vote to probably the Greens (I can’t see where else they would go.)

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  27. @Pressman: “It is the job of the press to get Cameron to move to the Right and get those kippers back in the fold.”

    I wish you success. Abandoning the centre is one way guaranteed to deliver a Labour victory.

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  28. An interesting phenomenon: in one ward in Liverpool one Labour&Co-op Party candidate (I thought it was dis-affiliated) unopposed. It seems that the election didn’t take place and the candidate was declared a winner. I wonder what would happen of there was voting and the candidate doesn’t get a vote.

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  29. If you don’t vote for yourself you don’t deserve to get elected.

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  30. @catmanjeff

    ‘The media there to objectively report the news’

    Maybe for some, but most of us less intellectual souls, look to the media for entertainment and as a distraction so we want an interesting story….

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  31. @catmanjeff

    Again it is a question of how this is being reported. Miliband’s actual speeches were about the positve aspects of immigration, and better policing of employment law.

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  32. @OldNat
    “Good news re Glasgow Art School from Fire Scotland “More than 90 per cent of the structure is viable and up to 70 per cent of the contents protected.”
    Amazing work from them!”

    That is truly wonderful news OldNat. The very best news. I am a real fan of Art Nouveau/Arts & Crafts/Jugendstil and sadly although I have seen much of it in Vienna, Berlin and Paris, I have never had the opportunity to visit Mackintosh’s works in Glasgow.

    Must do some day – after the restoration now I guess?

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  33. Roger H

    No, look at the C2 voters who supported Maggie & Major – Cameron needs to connect with these and stop the slide to UKIP in areas such as Essex. He was making the right noises yesterday about welfare and immigration but the problem is that he doesn’t really believe in making the necessary Right step and people can see that.

    NI and others will keep the pressure on him to change whilst stressing that he is the only credible PM.

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  34. “It is the job of the press to get Cameron to move to the Right and get those kippers back in the fold.”

    Oh do go away and do some reporting or whatever it is you do do.

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  35. @Pressman

    Maggie’s support came largely from the Falklands successes, and facing down Scargill et al.

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  36. Winning Essex won’t win Cameron the GE though. He won Essex last time.

    A shift to the right on immigration and welfare would alienate some crucial voters, particularly those of a socially liberal persuasion who tend to vacillate between CON and LD, potentially robbing Cameron of some crucial Southwestern seats, OW&A, affluent south London, and similar places. Furthermore it would for obvious reasons make a further Liberal coalition impossible. It might average out in terms of Labour support – might – but in all probability it would be a godsend for Liberals defending their seats and open the path to a Lab-Lib pact after 2015.

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  37. New thread

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  38. Maggie had a divided opposition rather than significantly more support. This time it’s the right that’s divided but, as Hague and Howard found, it’s almost impossible to unite the right without alienating the centre; the right isn’t big enough to win elections on its own.

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  39. Every time there are local council elections, everyone starts trying to extrapolate the results over to a general election. Why? The two are completely different entities. Sure, it’s a morale boost if you’ve picked up seats, but it is never a good indicator as to the result of a GE.

    I’m not quite sure why Labour are crowing anyway, when there share of the vote since 2012 has actually decreased. The Tories has as well, but THEY are the government taking tough decisions, not Labour.

    Labour can’t hide Ed Miliband for the general election campaign, the same way they couldn’t hide Gordon Brown.

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  40. What will happen next year, in the General Election, with those voters who supported UKIP in the local elections either as a protest vote or because they vote differently in local and national elections?

    I think it is fairly clear that there are a substantial number of voters on the margin between the Conservatives and UKIP who will migrate stragiht-forwardly between the two parties. However, I am much less sure about ex-Labour UKIP voters. It seems to me that if they move again they may treat UKIP as a stepping stone between Labour and the Conservatives.

    This is bad news for Labour for 2015. It is worse news because Miliband, now clearly accusable of being London-centric is poorly placed to lead a campaign aimed at the largely provincial working-class voters concerned.

    A similar point relates to the Scottish referendum. I have seen suggestion that MIiband may spear much of the Summer heading the Labour campaign for a “No” vote in the referendum. If, as appears almost certain to be the case, Ed MIliband as seen as descending on Scotland from a London eyrie, the likely effect is to be to drive yet more Scottish voters into the “Yes” camp, adding to the ones already put off by the campaigning of Alastair Darling with all his baggage as ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer. Actually, I would personally think that Darling would be a less-bad figurehead in Scotland than Miliband.

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  41. A good day for the Green Party. 23 gains across the country, with gains in places like the Wirral, Newcastle Under Lyme, Solihul and Bristol. Could also mean a good Euro result for them.

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  42. You mention liberals retreating to islands. But isn’t that happening to all the parties now with them ALL basically being minorities. I don’t think it’s just a liberal thing and if the lib Dems can make those islands return seats for them then they’ll survive way and beyond a UKIP fad.

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  43. Oh Mr Haines, did you miss Robin’s post?


    Lab – 27.26%
    UKIP- 26.69%
    Con – 22.72%
    Green – 7.66%
    LD – 6.67%
    “Without the South East, where Labour never do well, these elections would have been an absolute triumph for Labour, beating even the UKIP earthquake. Since very few of their target seats are in the South East, they are clearly well-set for a resounding victory next year.”

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  44. Re: JAMES BAILLIE’s Ukip comments,

    Looking at a slightly odd result in Wirral Council (http://www.wirral.gov.uk/election/results/2014-05-22/GreasbyFrankbyandIrby.shtm) I was wondering why one Tory got 500 votes more than another, when there were 2 seats available.
    The reason: Ukip failed to field 2 candidates, so Ukip supporters’ 2nd votes went to the incumbent Tory.
    Couldn’t they find another Ukip name to stick on the ballot, even in deputy leader Paul Nuttall’s back yard?

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