Council by election results are not always a guide to a party’s performance in a general election because local issues can determine how people vote. But they are a guide to how the most politically active think since the people who vote are likely to be those most interested their local community. They are also a guide to how each political party can get their vote out and are real results – not an opinion poll.
Whatever way you put it this summer- with a couple of exceptions- has been a disaster for Sir Keir’s Starmer’s new model Labour Party. As well as the high profile Parliamentary loss of Hartlepool to the Tories, only just holding on to Batley and Spen and the collapse of the Labour vote to the Lib Dems in Chesham and Amersham it is the local council by-election results that have been particularly bad.
Since this is against the background of a pretty incompetent Tory government facing allegations of corruption and mucking up people’s summer holiday arrangements by constantly changing the rules and causing confusion about what, if any, rules to follow to keep safe from Covid 19, it is no mean achievement for Labour to lose more electoral support.
The by-election results also show that underneath the serenity of a successful and well organised NHS vaccination programme the political scene is pretty volatile. Council seats that should have naturally stayed under the same party’s control are falling to other parties with enormous changes in vote share. The trouble is that in England and Scotland Labour is not the beneficiary. The exception is Wales. In the one Welsh by-election in the Rhondda, Labour did do well with the Tory share falling significantly.
The pattern that is emerging for Labour- from both the Midlands and the North- is that the Tories are consolidating the gains they made in 2019 and wooing the working class vote in once safe Labour areas. If this continues Labour under Starmer might lose more Parliamentary seats in a snap election in 2023 than Corbyn lost in 2019 and the Conservative Home dream list of scores of fresh Tory gains in Yorkshire , the North East, and the East and West Midlands become reality. In Yorkshire alone this means 11 seats could go.
Tories consolidating 2019 election gains
Examples of consolidation include Tory by-election wins from Labour in Grimsby, Bassetlaw and Sandwell and North East Lincolnshire. In Sandwell the Tory share of the vote was up 20 pc, the Labour share down 13.7 per cent. In Bassetlaw, the East Retford South seat saw the Labour share down 47 per cent and the Tory share up 25 per cent with the intervention of an Independent.
Even more concerning for Labour should be by-election results in Leicester, Harlow and Basildon. In Leicester Tories gained their first seat on the council with an 18 per cent rise in vote share while Labour slumped nearly 16 per cent. With the full council up for election next year, the Tories are hoping for large scale gains and possibly one of the city’s Parliamentary seats soon.
In Harlow and Basildon Tories took council seats in Labour areas like Pitsea in Basildon and Mark Hall in Harlow. The Labour vote share was down 16 pc in Basildon and Tories up nearly 15pc. In Basildon the Tory share was up 24 per cent enough to take the seat from Labour who kept a 41 per cent vote share. These new towns used to have Labour councils and Labour MPs like Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire. In Hemel there are now no Labour councillors.
Greens having remarkable results
The Tories are on the defensive in rural England and the South and West of England. But the main beneficiaries are the Liberal Democrats and the Greens. The Greens had a remarkable result in Somerset going from nowhere to 64.9 per cent vote share when the Liberal Democrats did not contest the seat. They held on to a seat in Staines just outside London, and gained seats in Aldeburgh in Suffolk and Mid Sussex from the Tories. In Aldeburgh they just pipped the Tories with a 26 per cent rise in vote share and in Balcombe, Mid Sussex they won a little more convincingly with a 13 per cent rise.
Lib Dems winning “safe” Tory council seats
The Liberal Democrats also did well winning seats from the Tories in Knaresborough, King’s Lynn, all with big swings in their vote share ( 28pc in King’s Lynn and 20 per cent in Knaresborough). In some seats the Labour vote switched to the Lib Dems, in other cases it remained steady but the Lib Dems leapfrogged Labour. The Lib Dems also took a seat from the Tories in Cobham in Dominic Raab’s Esher constituency with a 18.4 per cent rise in vote share. Labour did benefit on East Devon council when the voters switched to Labour when the Lib Dems did not stand winning a seat at Honiton.
In Scotland Labour lost a council seat to the SNP on West Lothian council, Vote share was down by nine per cent.
What does this all mean? Difficult to gauge from a clutch of by-election results, but it does suggest the electorate is particularly volatile and not necessarily enamoured with the Tories in rural areas. But it shows Labour has a long way to go.
The worst scenario would be if the Labour Party continued to haemorrhage votes to the Tories in the provincial cities and to the Greens and Liberal Democrats elsewhere. In the end the internal disputes could lead to the Socialist members permanently switching to the Greens and the moderate members switching to the Liberal Democrats. It would mean the end of Labour as a mainstream party. It hasn’t come to that yet, but could be unless Labour comes forward with a much more aggressive and thought provoking agenda.
Well that’s what happens when instead of functioning as an opposition party you spend your time exiling Labour party members who supported Corbyn and generally fighting the “”hard left” or what was once known as socialists within your own party.Under Starmer. It is not even enough to be a jew to avoid being smeared as antisemitic and banned! The Jewish Voice for Labour – the main grouping of left-wing Jews in the Labour party – has written to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and to the Forde enquiry set up by Labour leader Keir Starmer, with a detailed 77-page report that accuses Starmer’s party of a ‘purge of Jews’.
It would appear that Starmer is even less electable than Corbyn – quite a feat when the MSM far from denigrating his every utterance or how he speaks or what he wears, or his past membership of some questionable organisations has been reasonably supportive.
By not listening to the electorate on Many fronts including supporting /not supporting waspi/back to 60s women particularly when maladministration was proved it is what would be expected. Start listening and acting upon voters wants!
You really think we live in a democracy? I’ve never been allowed to vote for one….
So much easier to rig these days with electronic machines rather than paper….and Labour should have ended in the 90s considering what Blair did? S.tarmer was threatening the victims with 2 years gaol, no court required when he was Director of Persecutions, for having the audacity of asking him to the job he was actually being paid to do…..you cannae make this s*** up! Only the second time in my life have I actually seen a government employee put his signature on something…..
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We need a centre left coalition. Simple! Labour needs to reinvent itself and can’t, so this is the best and most creative solution at a time when we so badly need climate initiatives, and more equality.
Well I can say without a doubt the Conservative government who I have voted for for quite a few years now will not be getting my vote again in my opinion and quite a few others I know are disgusted in the way they are doing nothing to stop thousands of people crossing the channel from France. Although I have no problem with people coming here to work the vast majority of these people are only coming because of the millions of pounds we lavish on them. I’m sure we have thousands of our own could do with that money spending on them who have worked all their lives to contribute to the country but that would never do would it to spend it at home.
When does anyone even see Starmer? Weekly PMQ’s, the odd comment on TV. Otherwise he is the invisible man. Does anybody out there actually know why we would vote Labour, what are their Policies? I agree with Stephen Warner, he didn’t even pick up where Corbyn had ‘dipped his toes’ in with the WASPI and back to 60 campaigns. That was 3.8 million potential supporters that were ignored. He missed a trick there. I always thought that if you wanted to get results, you had to lead from the front.
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I think it’s the long term decline, let’s look at the statistics, in 1951 Labour share of the vote was 48.8% and they lost. So does First Past the Post benefit the Conservatives, most analysts have agreed upon that, apart from the usual Tory leaning suspects who quote the Isle of Wight electorate 113,000 voters and Orkney and Shetland 33,000. The old saying in County Durham seats was you weighed the Labour vote, you did not count it. Let’s take Easington in County Durham in 1951 Labour’s share of the vote was 81% in 2019 it was 45.4%. Bishop Auckland is one that the Tories gained, in 1951 Labour’s share was 60% of the vote in 2019 it secured 35,9%. This decline in voter share can be attributed to the decline in the old industrial working class, each election fewer of us are around who remember the Mines, the Shipyards, Ironworks, and its heavy unionisation and Labour affiliation. Most mines in the North East closed long before Thatcher in fact it had been an ongoing process since 1950.
That is one aspect of it, another is the marginalisation of the poor, this takes many forms, but most sociologists would agree that the poor are no longer connected to politics, and often come into conflict with the Labour Council who have to implement the Central government Laws, “so Labour has become the willing helpers of the Fascist government”, a quote from a man facing eviction by a Labour council.
Another reason is the weakening in class politics, I think most of us over a certain age would remember the class warrior! We would listen to him and sometimes agree with his point of view, but the blurring of class boundaries as somehow made him sound archaic. The truth is class has been replaced by an ill-defined nationalism and in a country made up of four nations it could be very difficult for Socialists to counter the narrow nationalism of the British government.
This leads me to my final analysis, Socialism has never taken root in this country amongst the working class, as it did in France, Germany & Italy, and this is largely due to that the English working-class been conservative on social issues, some of us remember the heated debates on hanging, abortion and other social issues adopted by the Labour Party and which went down like a lead balloon in certain seats with large catholic populations and amongst the less liberal-leaning non-catholic voter. This trend on promoting social issues which cause discord amongst the core Labour voters has continued to weaken Labour support. Maybe the grim reality is that large numbers of Labour voters never voted Labour for ideological reasons but for self-interest and since Labour is no longer promising a Rose garden, they have shited to the Tories for social reasons.
Please note I have written this as a basis for discussion rather than a personal viewpoint, my reason for writing such a long reply was that just to blame the present leader of the Labour masks the gravity of the true situation the Labour Party finds itself.
Some fascinating statistics you have unearthed about Labour’s declining support among the working class.
We are in a TINA state (There Is No Alternative). Having lost all trust in the conservatives, what do Labour stand for?, Liberals too woke and ineffective as a party (although hats off to Sarah Olney during the pandemic) and the others unable to form a government. I believe everyone should vote but for whom when no feasible alternative is offerred? How did we get in this state?
Given the report on climate change I’d suggest the Greens – they may not form a Government but if there was a very significant vote for them then maybe whoever (well Conservatives obviously) is in Government might appreciate there is a significant % of the population that would support measures to begin to address our problems.
Years ago U K politics was like a game of Monopoly. If you lived in Mayfair or Park Lane you voted Tory. If you lived in Whitechapel Road or Old Kent Road you voted Labour
Now Labour have adopted the Scrabble approach. They focus on B L M or LGBTQ or other such acronyms
If voters do not belong in these groups they feel neglected.