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Now I have had time to look further into Labour’s performance in the local elections a rather extraordinary picture is emerging among the losses and gains made by Labour on the night.
The election has been presented as a boring status quo result but if you drill down into the figures it shows two rather extraordinary trends – Labour is losing among the UKIP more Brexit minded white working class voters to the Tories but making major progress in some of the most affluent areas that stayed Tory strongholds even under Tony Blair.
Probably one of the most striking results was in Westminster. Now Labour failed to make the huge headway – just gaining four seats overall though they narrowed the gap between Labour and Tory across the borough to 1.8 per cent. The Tories held the one seat they had in Pimlico after a defection last year.
Labour took one of three seats in the West End ward – covering Mayfair, Soho and Fitzrovia in Central London. What’s more the person who won – Pancho Lewis- did so with a by-election style rise in votes. In 2014, the party’s candidates received a total of 1,281 votes and this year the figure stood at 2,858 – more than the 2,831 votes for the three Conservatives. This means that Oxford Circus, Park Lane,Bond Street, Grosvenor Square, the Dorchester hotel, Savile Row, Regents Street and for that matter the editorial offices of Private Eye are represented by a socialist. Since the ward was created in 1978 Labour have never been in sniffing distance.
The Westminster result mirrors earlier council wins for Labour in the City of London where Labour won its first seat in the Portsoken ward in 2014 and then went on to win five seats -including one in the Barbican – in the next election.
A similar surprising victory for Labour was in Harrow where Labour increased its majority to seven over the Tories. It was where it was won that made it surprising.Labour took Harrow on the hill – one of the poshest bits of the borough – that includes Harrow School and a private hospital – not normally natural Labour territory. The Labour candidates put on 1500 votes between them.
And in Barnet amidst the carnage for some of the Labour councillors in Hendon – Labour did make a GAIN by two votes -ousting a Liberal Democrat in Childs Hill just north of Golders Green – in a diverse ward that included Jewish, Arab and Somali voters.
And in Redbridge – Labour which made a double digit number of gains – included the new ward of Wanstead Village where homes can go for £750,000 – again not natural Labour territory.
Outside London Labour did amazingly well in Worthing. Worthing has never had a Labour councillor since Harold Wilson’s second victory in 1966. Last year Labour won a seat in a by-election in the centre of the town. Last week it won another four council seats and came close in a number of others. They also gained three seats from the Conservatives in next door Adur – better known as Shoreham on Sea -while the Tories took two from UKIP. The MP for Worthing East and Shoreham , Tim Loughton, who has a majority of 5,106 over Labour should be worried.
The reverse can be shown in Nuneaton which if the council had a full election – it seems certain Labour would have lost it to the Tories. Labour lost eight seats – some by big margins- in a result that gave the Tories 51 per cent of the votes on a 32 per cent poll.
Nuneaton is 88.9 per cent white British with a large proportion of pensioners – immigration hardly exists – the biggest group are Poles -but it had strong support for UKIP. which has transferred to the Tories.The census figures showed it was overwhelmingly Christian with just 12 Jews and 2895 Muslims out of 126,000 people.Nearly two thirds of the population are working class – classified as C2, D or E.
This makes an interesting dilemma for Labour they are still gaining votes in areas that Tony Blair could not even dream about but equally they are losing votes in traditional English working class areas where they need support. But Labour need to progress in both old England and new diverse England to succeed. If there is any post mortem to be had after these elections – this is it.