Coverage of local election results begins to gather pace on the evening of polling day, and peters out by roughly the close of the following weekend.
Unsurprisingly, it tends to focus on results from councils that change political control. But to get a fuller picture of what’s happened, one needs also to look at those that don’t. Hence this new fortnightly series on ConservativeHome.
Case study: Wirrall.
Control: No Overall Control.
Numbers: Labour 30, Conservatives 23, Liberal Democrats 6, Greens 5, Independent 2.
Change in last local elections: Labour -4, Greens +3, Conservatives +1.
All out or thirds: All out
Background: The local authority sits in Merseyside – in which the Conservatives hold a solitary set, Southport, and Labour the 14 others. It is a statement of the obvious that over time Labour has established a Parliamentary monopoly in Liverpool, the cultural effects of which have rippled out over time through the county.
However, conservatism is alive and well in much of Wirrall. Of its four Parliamentary seats, one, Wirrall West, was held for a term by Esther McVey for the Conservatives after 2010. Both it and Wirrall South stayed blue from their creation during the mid-1980s until Labour’s 1987 landslide. A third seat, Wallasey, was Tory from 1945 until 1992. Birkenhead has been Labour since its 1950 recreation.
The Conservative base is in the west and south of the local authority area. The council itself was created in 1973, and has been controlled by the Party for only eleven of those years – between 1975 and 1986. It has otherwise oscillated between Labour and No Overall Control, and has been in the latter state since 2012.
Results: The big takeway is that while in the east of the country, Labour tended to lose seats to the Conservatives, four of their five losses here were to the Greens. The latter won Bebington in Wirral South, plus Prenton and Birkenhead & Tranmere (in Birkenhead). The Conservatives took the fourth ward – Pensby & Thingwall in Wirrall West.
The Wirrall results show the value of putting a council whose recent election result was unspectacular under the magnifying glass. In opposition, and in one of its heartland areas, Labour actually lost wards – and to a new challenger party at that. It doesn’t bode well for Keir Starmer as the next election draws nearer.