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. Everyone seen the Daily Mail headline? You’d think Labour got three votes and were beaten by the “ED IS CARP” party, led by Pressman.

  2. Hastings BC 2014:
    Lab 10,901 (47%)
    Con 7,100 (30.6%)

    Hastings BC 2010:
    Lab 15,478 (41.9%)
    Con 14,378 (38.5%)

    These council votes are equivalent to roughly 75% of all votes in the Hastings and Rye constituency (Con majority 1,993), thirty-first on Anthony’s Labour target list.

    Ukip stood a candidate in fewer than half the 2014 wards, so it’s possible the Con vote could be squeezed further in 2015.

  3. Origimbo

    “The second of these is deemed to be inherited down the matrilineal line, and is thus impossible to “give up”.”

    Deemed by who, and should we be bound by their deems? Are we to tolerate a deem-ocracy?

  4. EWEN

    Do you think you might be a little oversensitive on the media coverage?

    I have just watched Jeremy Vine walking over a map of London and pointing out what you have described.

    I mean-aren’t you guilty of wanting to “impose a narrative”.

    Provided all the salient features of the day’s results are covered-what is there to criticise?

  5. “Still-you must feel good about being “liked” by Paul.-it is such an accolade. lol.”

    Lol indeed, that was jolly funny.

    Not sure of the need for ” ” those boys and its not really such an accolade: I like most people.

  6. So this is a thing.

  7. In the words [sort of] of that Brummie girl on Pick of the Pops

    “Are we to tolerate a deem-ocracy?”

    “Oi’ll give that foive smoilies Dyvid.”


    Interesting -I quite like your ” The Farage has no clothes”.

    I think the original was a young boy?-& he turned out to be right………to everyone’s surprise .

    Yes -I know what you mean about looking in. Its a habit hard to break-and hard to explain , if , like me one is so disliked :-)

    ( only one-hope you aren’t alegic to them too ?)

  9. I far prefer the media to talk down Labour and let them go under the radar. I remember in the run up to 87, 92 it was all positive Lab was miles ahead and certain to win and then it went horribly wrong.

    This way I think that Lab may just quietly make their way into number 10 when everyone is focussing on Farage who’s down the pub having a pint and regaling the press with stories of foreign criminals.

  10. It’s coming down to the wire in Barnet.

    @ R&D,

    if I may say so it seems a bit over the top and self serving.

    Over the top it may be. Self-serving, it historically has not. (And more often than not imposed from the outside, eg. the Inquisition.)

    @ Mr. Nameless,

    Is that a thing, or is that a website? I mean, [email protected] H0dges has a blog too.

  11. @ Chris Green

    ‘there’s no point in ignoring the historical trends’

    Another one is Labour leading in the opinion polls by a similar amount to their current lead in 1986 and 1992 and then getting smashed at the GE in the following year!

  12. It will get exciting, eventually, we have St Ashcroft of Forgotten Colonies’ results to which to look forward tomorrow. I’ll be watching Monte Carlo highlights (haven’t got Sky).

  13. Spearmint,

    There’s no need to swear. It’s only got 44 signatures at the moment but there are some noises being made among Lib Dems. Losing 250 councillors isn’t exactly good.

  14. Mr N

    They’ll need to get past 44 signatures but it should still make the news.

    I wish they’d be more honest though and just write:

    Dear Nick,

    F*ck off

    Yours sneerly,

    The lads.

    ps We know where you live.

  15. HOWARD

    I thought Ashcroft was releasing his stuff at Cons’ Conference?

    I don’t have the Digger’s Sports Package-too expensive.

    I wouldn’t watch Lewis Hamilton going round in circles, even if I did.

  16. Labour have nearly won an overall majority of council seats:

    Labour 1891 seats.
    Non-Labour 1966 seats.

  17. @ Couper2802,

    Yeah, I think the hysteria in these parts about the news coverage is a little unwarranted. Sure, it’s been ridiculous, but to adapt the old adage about polling, the only Nick Robinson report that matters is the one he has to give on the 8th of May, 2015.

    And it wouldn’t hurt Ed Miliband to have the headlines all be “Shocking Triumph for Miliband as Labour Wins Unexpected Majority!” instead of “Fragile Twenty Seat Majority Dooms Miliband Government to Instability and Diane Abbott” on the day after the election (although I am sure we’ll still be seeing that one from Mr. H).

  18. Mr N: I’m sympathetic to that, though I think it’s the wrong move. Clegg needs to take the 2015 hit then resign in my opinion, rather than the new guy/girl being slaughtered after six months in the job.

    Colin: I think the headlines are just a bit over-blowing what UKIP have actually done, which is establish a small presence on a large number of councils and establish a balance-of-power group on perhaps four or five. They will need a lot more work even to establish strong challenges in their core regions in the southeast/east next year, on the evidence of these results.

    Some interesting local points I noticed:
    – UKIP still have nary a councillor in Eastleigh. I was quite surprised at that – surely bodes badly for Diane James if she stands there next year?
    – Julian Huppert should be a rather worried man right now, Labour have made heavy-duty gains in Cambridge. Vote shares 29 to 39 Ld-Lab, with 14 apiece for GRN and CON, so the vote shares actually aren’t a catastrophe. What’s more worrying for him is that Labour eked out lots of narrow wins, taking ten of the 15 wards being voted on, so they now have a noticeable ground troop advantage and their campaigning team seemed very sharp and well organised.
    – As noted above, weird lack of UKIP in Kent.
    – Big new UKIP chunk in Great Yarmouth – looks like a good shout for a target seat for them next year.

    Any thoughts on any of those?

  19. Missis Minty

    The inquisition was years ago and yes, it was firm but it was also fair. You could recant, repent and die a different torturous death of your own choice.

    It was also highly successful – for example there are very few witches around these days.

  20. Although the Inquisition was primarily about eliminating heathens and heretics rather than witches.

  21. R&D,
    Had a call today from the Labour Party asking me to increase my financial
    Contribution.Well I know I am a major donor but really you would have thought
    They could let the dust settle a little.However she said that the focus was now
    Absolutely on 2015,so I suppose there is no time to waste.LOL.


    Yes-that is clearly Howard’s view too.

    I must say I did wonder if it was a bit OTT-but not having an interest in the ward/council minutae , was reliant on the reaction fro the pointy heads, which all seem to be pointing in the same direction. :-)

  23. Mrs M

    I see you mention Diane Abbott – wonder why she never won the leadership? I like that thing she does when she rolls her eyes upwards and pretends to think prior to important answer.

    Actually I don’t even know why she’s on on Thursday nights, she has so little to say of any import at all.

  24. bill p

    “Although the Inquisition was primarily about eliminating heathens and heretics rather than witches.”

    Yes, but their selling point was “Three for the price of two” as I recall.

    They’d have given Lidl a run for their money.

  25. @ Mr. Nameless,

    Hmm. Time will tell, but I suspect he’s going to cling on.

    @ R&D and Bill Patrick,

    And there are an awful lot of heretics and heathens around these days. Hardly anyone will admit that the sun orbits the Earth! (Although I haven’t tried asking Ukip’s science spokesman yet.)

    @ James Baillie,

    Great Yarmouth and Thurrock are looking very tough for Labour, I think- target seats they’ll now to be hard pressed to win away from Ukip. A general election may be different, but they have a hell of a fight on their hands.

  26. R&D,

    Actually I thought that their selling point was their steaks, but my history’s rusty.

  27. Spearmint,

    Any idea why we don’t have many UKIP supporters on here?

  28. @NFR: “Well, sure guys, if it makes you feel better…”

    Why would it make me feel better or worse? It’s just a piece of evidence-based information that has some relevance on a polling site.

  29. @RosieAndDaisie

    How is your leg? What did the doctor say?

  30. rogerh

    The strange variety of putdowns to replace dialogue always intrigues me.

    Its a bit like football chanting in a way – bellowing “You only sing when you’re winning” to somehow make you feel better about being thrashed 6-0

  31. “Hmm. Time will tell, but I suspect he’s going to cling on.”

    That’s what the football pundits said about David Moyes.

    All he needs now is a statement of full confidence from Tim Farron and the Federal Executive and he’s a gonner, for sure.

    I say they should give the job to Ryan Giggs on a caretaker basis until they can sign a big name leader from a Spanish or German party.

  32. @ Bill Patrick,

    We had a bunch last year, but they would pop up for a few weeks and then vanish. I can’t imagine why- I was always very nice to them. :)

    (I think, though, if a person can’t tolerate a little gentle ribbing Ukip might not be the right party for them. The others all say silly things too, but not quite at the same rate…)

  33. What news from yonder Child’s Hill Lady Minty??

  34. Still very unclear whether Labour will take Barnet, but the #BarnetCount Twitter feed is hilarious.

  35. Here we go. DUN DUN DUN.

  36. Hi Martyn

    Well, he did the Dudley Morre “Tarzan” sketch and I larfed when he got to the bit about him having nothing against my left leg but neither did I.

    Well, no, I was told to rest, try to annoy Colin and sign on for physiotherapy which is available by xmas at the latest [it may have been soonest, I can’t remember]

    Basically the pain is less intense and rest seems the best answer.

    Ta v much for your concern, its kind of you

  37. @ RogerH

    ‘Why would it make me feel better or worse? It’s just a piece of evidence-based information that has some relevance on a polling site.’

    Please enlighten me – where is the *evidence* in the below?

    ‘There was a report on the BBC which suggested that when the economy was performing OK, rather than benefiting the government, it ceased to be a concern for most voters and they just moved on to worry about something else, such as the NHS.’

  38. Barnet is a Tory hold… by one vote, after a recount.

  39. muddy

    Moyesy is available.

    Could probably prise Fellaini away from MU for a fiver as well.

  40. Er, rather, by one seat- as in, if Labour had taken one Tory seat they’d control the council but they didn’t so they don’t.

    Exciting times.

  41. Bill Patrick
    “Any idea why we don’t have many UKIP supporters on here?”

    You have a few.

  42. “I thought Ashcroft was releasing his stuff at Cons’ Conference?”

    Which I thought was tomorrow (*a* conference not *the* conference). I read it on here. Am I being li*d to?

  43. 150 police guarding Tower Hamlets mayoral count:

  44. Nevermind- initial tweets misreported. Tory hold by two seats.

  45. There was one UKIP bloke but he upset AW, who banned him.

  46. @ Howard,

    He’s releasing it at the ConHome conference, and it is indeed tomorrow.

  47. R&D

    Hehe, I thought about that. But a leader who hangs around in bars, picking fights with random strangers? Not really their style, is it? Though maybe it should be. “Oi, Farage! did you spill my pint, pal?”

  48. @RosieAndDaisie

    Did he say what was wrong with you?

  49. @ Mr. Nameless,

    Nice work in Sheffield by the way.

  50. Howard
    Ashcroft has tweeted that his 26000ish voter marginal poll will be released tomorrow.

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