England’s May Elections – Conservative Article
As the ballot boxes have all been collected and the votes counted, there have been some significant political repercussions after the recent elections.
Starting off, the Hartlepool by-election proved to be one of the most significant results with the first-ever Conservative victory since its creation in 1974. This has been a highly focused on part of the election, with polls running up to 6 May predicting the Conservative win with varying degrees of accuracy.
On to the Mayoral elections; Sadiq Khan managed to hold his position as Mayor of London – although with a reduced number of votes. Shaun Bailey surpassed many expectations, performing better than nearly all the polls had suggested, but Khan kept his office with relative comfort.
Labour also managed to hold on to Liverpool despite a tumultuous past few months with the election of Ms Joanne Anderson. Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, as well as the West of England, transferred from Conservative to Labour with the victories of Nik Johnson and Dan Norris respectively.
All other Mayoral candidates standing in this election remained the same. Although it is worth noting that Ben Houchen Mayor for Tees Valley not only managed to retain his office, but won with a 73% vote majority.
At the time of writing, the council seats and police commissioners are still to be counted, but the Conservatives have made at least three commissioner gains in Dorset, Cleveland, Avon and Somerset.
Overall, it has been quite a successful series of elections for the Conservatives with the significant gain of Hartlepool in the by-election as well as Ben Houchen’s 73% majority. Sadiq Khan did manage to hold London, although not by as much as he would have liked. The council seat maps of Britain are very blue for the moment.
In all honesty, however, I do not believe it is completely due to a successful series of campaigns coordinated by CCHQ. From my own interactions with friends and what I have witnessed on social media, there is a great deal of disenfranchisement between the average Brit and the Labour Party.
The 2018 Labour Conference in Liverpool sharply contrasted against the priorities of the British public. Paul Embery expressed his disappointment at the Labour Conference when speakers were proudly talking about a future in Europe, rather than acknowledging the referendum result of 2016. If Labour cannot see how Sir Keir Starmer’s speech alone would disgruntle the British working class, it cements their divide from their historic voter base.
With the elections being described as “the biggest test of public opinion since the 2019 general election”, they show that Labour are not in favour of the public. Regardless, I hope that the councillors, mayors, and police commissioners that have been elected do in fact keep their election promises and deliver to the people. To serve in office is a privilege that must not be abused.
A fundamental part of the British political system is having opposition to the government in power; this is true regardless of who is in office. Labour have proven to neither be a strong nor effective opposition. I do not believe the 2019 and 2021 elections have been the death knell for the Labour party, but I would like to think they have been severely jolted awake.
British democracy is not working effectively if there is no strong opposition in Parliament to the government. Hopefully, these elections will be the kick Labour needs to re-evaluate itself and act as an opposition.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Peter Pearce
Point of Information
Labour Won Little Because it Stood for Little – A Liberal Response
Peter provides a crucial, if patchy, overview of the ‘Super Thursday’ election. The conservatives have undoubtedly swept the board. Their unmitigated victory in Cannock Chase is a little-discussed but indicative example. The former mining constituency has completely disavowed the red ribbons for blue ones, with 12 out of 13 contested council seats going Tory. Cannock represents a nation disenfranchised with Labour.
Though, as Peter mentions, this is not the responsibility of Tory campaigning alone. Turnout in Cannock Chase was abysmal, barely scraping 31%. It is clear the people of Cannock have not only lost hope in Labour, but in the political system.
The Conservatives had some genuine appeal, with concrete achievements to back them up. Yet, they may just be the best of a bad bunch. What’s worse, Labour has continuously failed to represent Cannock Chase and other working-class districts in recent years. By doing so, Labour has given the silent mandate for Tory rule.
Labour has been shown up as a failure. Their future hangs in the balance. Is there a way out?
In a sea of Tory victories, Labour did make some gains. Peter does mention some of these, but his focus on England cunningly sidelines the overwhelming success of Drakeford’s regional Labour party in Wales. Peter has also overlooked Manchester’s mayoral election, with Andy Burnham scooping up a remarkable victory for the Labour Party. Less publicized but no less remarkable are the successes Labour had in Salford and Preston as well.
The victories tell us where Labour needs to go. What did Drakeford, Burnham, Norris, and Labour’s Salford and Preston councillors have in common? They had principles. They had a vision. More so, they genuinely represented their constituents. Funnily enough, all are dyed-in-the-wool left-wingers too.
One solution for Labour is devolution. Andy Burnham’s ardent, grounds-up approach to politics has continued his legacy in Manchester. He sought to represent his constituents, not Westminster. Starmer should rebuild his party on this local basis.
The second solution is principle. Starmer was swept into office on the back of his no-nonsense, but solidly left-wing, politics. Starmer should have stuck with this. Unlike the party leader, Drakeford and other socialist councillors kept to their principles and secured apt rewards as a result. A shift to the principled left, not the opportunistic right, might be the best strategy.
However, Starmer seems to have doubled down on his pseudo-Blairite, shape-shifter politics. Having ‘moved’ (read: demoted) Angela Rayner to a new position as part of his attack on the principled left, he is continuing Labour’s defeat and confirming the Conservative’s victory.
Written by Chief Liberal Writer, Frank Allen
Success in Name Only? – A Labour Response
Peter’s summary is concise and informative, if a little warped at times. The Hartlepool by-election was by far one of the most significant results to keep an eye on – both before and after the election. It’s a sign of the conservatives undeniable success even beyond this one parliamentary seat.
I won’t deny their success. However, there are certainly many more results to consider and a greater discussion is to be had about the significance of this ‘Super Thursday’ election for UK politics.
Both Peter and Frank have talked about the success of the conservatives as a result of Labour’s failings. I have to agree with them both. Labour’s strategy was misplaced and fell short of placing confidence in the people expected to vote red. Whether a failure of the party, Starmer or the politics of today, Labour almost opened the door to conservative success. Equally though, the conservative campaign was by no means the crème de la crème of strategies. It also fell short, just to a lesser extent.
Labour did have some success last Thursday. Most notably, or at least for me being Welsh, Labour won 30 of the 60 seats in the Senedd, matching their best-ever result in the Welsh Parliament. A more specific success for Labour was their Rhondda seat win where former Plaid Cymru leader, Leanne Wood, lost her seat to Elizabeth Buffy Williams. Leanne Wood, former Plaid Cymru leader, lost her Rhondda seat to Elizabeth Buffy Williams for Labour.
But what do these results mean for UK politics? Local council elections are never as significant as general elections namely for low voter turnout. In Wales, for instance, turnout was just 46.5%. And while I will always vote in these elections and am a huge advocate for political participation, it is undeniable that many people just don’t care about these ‘smaller’ elections.
Improving this is an issue for another day. But, for now, I’d be wary of claims of success from any party; these results are important but they’re not a conclusive indicator of what’s to come. The next general election will still be all to play for.
Written by Chief Labour Writer, Abi Clargo