All councils from the recent local elections have now declared their final results and it seems that every party – with the exception perhaps of UKIP – can declare victory in some form or another.
A net loss of 33 councillors from 1,332 (2.5%) is hardly a disaster in mid-term local elections, which are often seen as a chance to express dissatisfaction with the current government. Given the continued bungling around Brexit, plus recent scandals such as Windrush, the results could have been far worse. Losing Trafford council was probably the only disaster of the night, as it leaves them with no councils in Greater Manchester, but it has only swung to No Overall Control rather than to Labour. Careful expectations management also meant that these results could be presented as being ‘as expected’.
Gaining councillors is always a positive step for the opposition party, and Labour made the greatest net gains in absolute terms. They failed to make any net gains in terms of councils controlled, although forcing Trafford into No Overall Control can be seen as a symbolic victory as it leaves no opposition to Labour in Greater Manchester, where they are now the largest party on every council. A better result might be expected at this point in the electoral cycle, and may have helped Corbyn convince some of his critics that he is the right man for the job, but they were in no way a disaster.
The biggest winners by far were the Lib Dems, with a 14% increase in the number of councillors and, perhaps more importantly, a net gain of 4 councils. It feels like the party is finally recovering after the appalling showing in the 2015 general election (and, to a lesser extent, 2017). The question now that the party has avoided oblivion – something I thought was fairly unlikely – is whether it can build on these gains in future elections and retake its place as a challenger to the two main parties.
Similar to the Lib Dems, the Greens had a significant percentage increase in councillors elected, albeit from a low base. I’m not sure if this was helped by the Lib Dems not standing candidates against the Greens in some areas, including my ward, and whether there was any form of electoral pact in place between the two parties. A good result all round though, especially considering that the Greens are often ignored in press coverage.
Admittedly UKIP are the outlier to the title of this blog post. The only way I can think of to put a positive spin on losing almost all of their councillors up for re-election is that the party has achieved its goal of winning a vote to leave the European Union. Given that the Conservatives and Labour are both pro-Brexit – and a hard Brexit at that – UKIP can argue that its job is done, and from a pragmatic perspective there’s no point in continuing to exist as a separate party.
Overall, the results seem to have been a consolidation of Labour in the North and Conservatives in the South, with UKIP being wiped out and replaced by the Lib Dems and Greens.