First, the good news. The Conservatives remain the dominant party of local government. Still more than Labour and the Lib Dems put together. We have almost 10,000 councillors – Labour have 5,100, the Lib Dems under 4,300. In these elections we have gained overall control of Craven, Gosport, Hart and Richmond-upon-Thames. The BNP have half as many councillors as they did a week ago – including a wipe out in Barking and Dagenham.
Secondly, the bad news. We made net losses on the Council elections on Thursday of 121. We lost control of Bury, Ealing, Enfield, Harrow, Hyndburn, Lincoln, Mole Valley, North Tyneside, Nuneaton and Bedworth and Solihull. Hounslow where we had done an excellent job with as minority administration saw us gain a seat but lose power as Labour gained more seats as the Lib Dem and residents assoc councillors were wiped out.
Naturally there will be plenty of thought given to why we lost where we did. One pause before too many recriminations should be on the higher turn out from having a General Election the same day. A high turnout doens't mean we lose. Boris Johnson won on a higher turnout that Ken Livingstone. We beat Labour in the General Election on a higher turnout than they beat us in 2005. But it is probably true that Conservative supporters have a greater motivation to go and vote than Labour supporters.
In Hammersmith and Fulham I was pleased to be reelected on Thursday. More people voted for me but my majority went down. On Thursday I got 2,107 and my majoroty aginst my highest placed Labour opponent was 252. Four years ago I got 1,725 votes but my majority against the highest placed Labor opponent was 498.
Across the borough we broadly replicated our landslide victory of four years ago, just losing a couple of seats. We won 31-15, while last time it was 33-13. But the canvassing had shown us gaining ground. I don't think the canvassing was wrong. If we had a straight comparison of Council elections on the same basis I believe we would have won seats. The factor that changed that was the General Election.
I suspect that Ealing, Harrow and Enfield would still have Conservative councils had the General Election not been on the same day. However I also suspect that had they cut the Council Tax each year for the last four years they would have managed to sustain that challenge of an increased turnout while in Hammersmith and Fulham if we had pushed up the Council Tax on the level we inherited from Labour – rather than cut it – that I would no longer be a councillor and that Labour would have regained control of Hammersmith and Fulham.
What was most disappointing was the failure for us to win the Hammersmith constituency in the General Election. Shaun Bailey was a most outstanding candidate. I hope he will stand again next time (whenever that is). Labour ran a very targeted campaign with messages for council Tenants, Housing Association tenants, Muslims, pensioners, mothers with young children and so on. Each group got it's own targeted batch of lies. A lie is half way round the world before the truth has got its boots on. We worked hard to counter it. But evidently not hard enough. Sorry, Shaun.