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. Bow Group is calling for Shapps’ resignation and a directly-elected chairman.

  2. Sheffield (and Barnsley and probably Doncaster) election results coming in Live here: http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/local/live-sheffield-council-elections-1-6633810

  3. Ben Quigley-Harris is – file under usual suspects along with Simon Danczuk

  4. I’m stunned at some of those results for the English Democrats…but those are in non-UKIP seats, so it looks like the UKIP vote gravitated towards the most similar party.

  5. The EngDems have a relatively strong local party in South Yorkshire. They’ve had decent results in Doncaster most commonly.

  6. Presumably UKIP have also benefited from the collapse of the BNP vote. I wonder if their combined share has gone up or down.

  7. “Gossip at Sheffield election count is UKIP will win ‘about three seats’.” according to the Star. I find this unlikely, since they’re only anywhere near first in one ward (Stocksbridge). Their other second place, Arbourthorne, is not about to elect a UKIP councillor.

  8. Guymonde’s Law of UKPR

    Whenever a long, boring post is in preparation, a simultaneous message of ‘New Thread’ is signed, sealed and delivered.

  9. Anthony Wells

    Ben Quigley-Harris is – file under usual suspects along with Simon Danczuk

    It actually appears to be Ben Harris-Quinney:

    http://www.bowgroup.org/people/ben-harris-quinney

    – though if even you are getting it wrong it rather proves your point.

  10. Rather than net gains, I’d really like to see separate gains and losses in the results summaries. It would give a much better indication of the extent to which, for instance, Labour gains in the south are being offset by losses (to UKIP) in the north.

  11. To repeat my key claim in the last thread, this was a case of little ventured, little gained for Labour. They didn’t try very hard and they haven’t done notably well, but they haven’t done badly either. I think it’s an exceptionally uninformative set of local elections as far as the GE goes.

  12. Guymonde

    Guymonde’s Law of UKPR

    Whenever a long, boring post is in preparation, a simultaneous message of ‘New Thread’ is signed, sealed and delivered.

    And (a) you don’t notice till you’ve pressed ‘Submit’ and (b) Anthony has made all the points you were about to, but more elegantly (plus a lot of other ones). Anyway, in slightly sulky manner, here’s mine from the last thread:

    It’s actually worth pointing out that UKIP have technically ‘lost’ seats in London as councillors who defected to them (perhaps after deselection) have failed to be re-elected. So depending on how you count things, their total gains may be slightly better than they look.

    Labour’s gains in Croydon, Merton and Redbridge and the Conservatives’ in Kingston were expected. Hammersmith and Fulham was a surprise though because population change has made what used to be a Labour borough difficult to regain. And no doubt it will lead to Phil Haines being banned from another bookmaker. It will be interesting to see how the continuing ‘tri-council’ thing with Westminster and K&C goes. The result in Barnet may also be worth watching, though a safe Labour ward there has a deferred election due to the death of a candidate.

    It was also interesting that the Lib Dems made gains not just in Sutton, but in Richmond too – both presumably a re-establishment of a ‘local premium’ that had been lost in a GE. Unfortunately this sort of result may encourage Clegg in his ‘forting up’ narrative and ignore the devastation outside the walls of their local strongholds.

  13. BP

    Why did Labour not try? Was it lack of money? Or was it keeping the powder dry?

    Amber
    I’m not so stupid as to be determined to ignore any Labour gain under any circumstance. But AW’s term ‘lacklustre’ seems absoutely right. And a party in opposition one year out cannot be content with lacklustre.

  14. Is there a news blackout in the UK over the % vote recieved by the parties.. they are just reporting UKIP but what of cons, lab and lib dems

    on a side topic… might there be legal wranglings over the ‘A UKIP party’ being alowed to be added to the euro ballot paper in the south east. Meant votes could easily make a mistake and vote A UKIP party rather than UKIP (which was down on the very bottom of sheet ) … personally i smell a big rat here… and I aint no UKIP supporter.!!

    But we’re supposed to have fairness in these elections and i remember a few years ago a new comission was set up to prevent ‘LITERAL’ candidates and ‘CONVERSATIVE’ candidates standing to confuse people… but somehow “A UKIP party” is allowed..
    I see long court battles in the ” A UKIP party” gets several % of the vote .. spiltting UKIP vote

  15. John B,

    I don’t know.. It may have been a financial issue.

  16. Mike Smithson [email protected] 56s
    @andrewsparrow @redstarbelsize The number of council by-elections defended & lost by Ukip since last May is 6

  17. Grrr, posted last post in the wrong forum.

  18. As I look at some of the results on the BBC website, Labour seem to be doing well in London itself, but not so well in Essex.

  19. Embarrassingly I’ve just realised that I misread the Guardian website and Lib Dems lost seats in Richmond as well (I had assumed they’d pick-up in the split wards). So one less fort.

  20. In fact, contrary to some expectations, it’s in Essex where Labour are losing seats at one and the same time as UKIP are gaining them.

  21. Meanwhile the YouGov poll has the Labour Lead down to zero. Though the average of the last 5 polls is a 3.2% Labour lead. It seems fairly clear that the underlying Labour Lead will go negative some time this year, but less clear when.

    However in the Polls you ask VI first and then questions like “Is Ed Miliband up to the job of being PM?” It would be very interesting to see how VI changed if you asked this question first. Since fewer than 60% of Labour Voters think he is up to the job, and only about 10% of the rest, this would probably squeeze the Labour VI quite significantly (and indeed UKIP).

    The reason I mention this is that at the GE I suspect the Conservatives will succeed in framing the question as:
    * Is Ed up to the Job?
    * Is our long term economic plan working?
    * So who will you vote for?

  22. @ Steve / John B / Shevii

    Replies to posts in previous thread. Not re-posting, as the new thread allows us to move forward.

    @AW

    The question is…is the 25% at the local level an indicator of UKIP in the EU elections?

    My instinct says “no”, as people vote on both with different views.

  23. Labour held all three wards on Sheffield City Council so far, but a big challenge from UKIP in Birley.

  24. Lab hoovering up seats up north.

  25. Serious UKIP challenge to Isobel Bowler in Mosborough, majority down to 400.

  26. And in Beighton Ward. This is unprecedented. Lib Dem vote absolutely wrecked, as with Cons, TUSC absolutely failing to break through.

  27. “. 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.
    ________

    So in short they aren’t a party who look like heading to number 10 anytime soon..

  28. Even if Labour lose the popular vote, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Miliband in Number 10, even with a majority.

  29. My take on the “UKIP surge” is that despite all the hype in today’s media coverage it is actually a bit stuck at the 25% “glass ceiling” for parties based largely on attracting protest votes (I well remember the Liberals under Thorpe being stuck at about this level in the 1972-73 period, and then dropping back to 19% in the subsequent GE)
    Another factor I detect from where they are now doing well is that although UKIP began about a decade ago as largely an ex-Tory C1 and C2 party they have eaten into D and E voters in the last year or so, mopping up the sort of voter who voted for Thatcher’s Tories in the 80s and Blair’s New Labour in the late 90s/early 2000s. They are the sort of key swing voters for whom Miliband is too geeky and intellectual, and Cameron is too Eton’ish, but that both need to win for either to win outright. My guess is that neither will succeed and Farage will do better than we expect in the GE in the popular vote, but fail to win more than 2 or 3 seats.

  30. Six Labour holds of six seats declared in Sheffield but all once-safe seats now marginal with UKIP.

  31. @Statgeek

    Thanks for you input.

    @Tony Dean
    My main point in response to you, (I think!) would be that even if UKIP fail to get beyond 25% their participation makes the outcome of many, many seats unknowable. There may well be many MPs returned to Westminster on less than 35% of the vote, and although constitutionally a majority is a majority is a majority, as others have rightly pointed out, the economic decisions which will have to be made after the next GE are such that a government will need to feel that it has the backing of,a fair chunk of the electorate. I know that no government has won more than 50% of the vote in ages, but to govern on much less than 35% seems a little extreme.

  32. Labour certainly weren’t short of leaflets in Norwich. Maybe it’s because Miliband gives the impression he’d much rather be running for the Senate as a Democrat.

  33. Recount in Crookes. Argh stress.

  34. Labour holds the record, by the way, for a low vote of a governing party. They had 30.7% of the vote in the 1923 GE and formed a government. It does seem as though Labour will do better than that.

  35. @Tony Dean

    “My guess is that neither will succeed and Farage will do better than we expect in the GE in the popular vote, but fail to win more than 2 or 3 seats.”

    Of course, UKIP’s influence on the eventual GE result won’t be in term of the number of seats they win, if indeed they win any, but to what extent their significant popular vote will upset the apple cart in Tory/Labour/Lib Dem marginal seats.

    I think we’re looking at them getting at least 10% in May 2015. That’s going to drop an absolute bomb into that election.

  36. Hmmm. Ed Balls on BeeBeCee but I find him difficult to listen to, much less understand. Jeremy Vine bits hurt my eyes with dazzling computer graphics, fast moving images and flick-vision where the shot only stays on screen for a second, if that.
    Time for me to shove off and do something more useful with my time!

  37. Surely this is business as usual for mid-term elections?

    – Government does poorly
    – Opposition does well
    – A 3rd party garners some protest votes

    The only difference this year is the usual 3rd party is in government so a different one received the protests.

  38. UKIP gain West Ecclesfield. Labour in 2011 and 2012.

  39. @MR NAMELESS

    It’s Sheffield how is the LD vote holding up?

  40. @ MrNameless

    Which are the Clegg wards to watch for?

  41. @NBEALE: “It seems fairly clear that the underlying Labour Lead will go negative some time this year, but less clear when.”

    In what sense does it seem ‘fairly clear’? While I would predict that Labour will slowly increase their lead over the Tories I wouldn’t describe any particular outcome as ‘clear’.

  42. Lib Dems ruined for vote share outside Hallam but no Hallam results in yet. Struggling to get above 200 votes in most wards.

    Clegg’s wards are as follows in order of potential interest: Crookes, Stannington, Ecclesall, Fulwood, Dore & Totley.

  43. Any sign of share of the vote figures? Can’t find any yet.

    It seems that UKIP are doing relatively badly in London – apparently less than 10% – so we should take it they are doing better elsewhere. Clearly although UNS predicts no seats, there is enough variation to invalidate that means of prediction. There’s got to be some places where they are in with a shout at then next GE. However, the prediction itself could well be correct. But 10% or so of the national GE vote is a lot, and it depends who it comes from.

  44. UKIP performing very poorly in Winchester.

  45. @BP

    “Labour holds the record, by the way, for a low vote of a governing party. They had 30.7% of the vote in the 1923 GE and formed a government.”

    A bit like Eddie the Eagle ski jump winning gold in the Winter Olympics, as the other competitors had injuries. :))

  46. Two Lib Dem holds in Beauchief & Greenhill and Graves Park, second seat for UKIP in East Ecclesfield.

  47. “So in short they aren’t a party who look like heading to number 10 anytime soon..”

    Allan, why do you persist in these amateur judgements?

    At the moment Labour are the most likely party to be in government in 2015 but extrapolating from 35% turnouts is utterly pointless as a genuine guide.

    Its hard to believe that you really don’t know that.

    I thought Anthony’s summary was excellent and the BBC have been an embarrassment – couldn’t believe the conclusions they reached after just one Sunderland result had come through.

  48. Labour gain Nether Edge from LDs.

  49. @RogerH
    “UKIP performing very poorly in Winchester”

    That doesn’t really surprise me. The sort of area where UKIP used to appeal more than it does now a few years back, however since then their support profile has now shifted on to areas with more D and E voters. I suspect Winchester has few of these?

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