- With 18 out of 22 councils declared, the Welsh Conservatives have now lost 67 seats whilst Labour have picked up 63. It’s a brutal result: they actually lost more councillors than their counterparts in Scotland, which is not what one might have expected reading the pre-election predictions.
- Meanwhile the recriminations have already started north of the border, with Paul Hutcheon of the Daily Record suggesting that these results might finish off Douglas Ross’s leadership of the Scottish Conservatives.
- His defenders (see Ruth Davidson) below can point to the national picture, but his critics can rightly argue that he needs to own his decision to u-turn on demanding Boris Johnson resign over Partygate. As I noted in January, his ability to send a letter of no confidence to Sir Graham Brady was a good advertisement for a united, national party. Why the change of course?
- Behind that, the grim reality is that the scandal-ridden SNP has just posted its best-ever local government performance.
- Meanwhile results from Northern Ireland are continuing to trickle in (SF 16, UUP 3, DUP 2, APNI 2, SDLP 1, Oth 1), but we’re going to call it a day on this live blog. Thank you for following along!
- Not only have the Conservatives lost control of Monmouthshire, their only Welsh council, but Labour are now the largest party for the first time since 1995. The Conservatives lost 12 seats, falling to 18.
- Counting in Scotland is complete: the Tories lost 62 councillors in total, and were overtaken by Labour. Both Labour and the Nationalists gained one council each.
- In Northern Ireland, Doug Beattie, the Ulster Unionist Party leader, has told reporters that he will continue in post “until his colleagues say otherwise”. Currently the results reflect Sinn Fein’s position as the strongest single party even more strongly than before: they have elected 15 MLAs, and no other party has yet more than two.
- Douglas Ross isn’t actually having the worst day of the Scottish leaders: not a single candidate for Alba, the separatist group launched by Alex Salmond after his split from the SNP, has been elected.
- It looks as if the Nationalists will be able to cling on to Glasgow Council, after edging out Labour by a single seat.
- However, the bad news for the Tories keeps coming: they’ve apparently lost half their seats on Edinburgh Council, and been overtaken by the Greens in the process.
- Meanwhile in Wales, Plaid Cymru have picked up Anglesey. The corresponding Westminster constituency, Ynys Môn, is currently held by the Conservatives.
- In Wales, the Conservatives are now down 28 seats on last time, and Labour up 30. Plaid’s early surge has evened out a little, and they’re only up five seats – although both they and Labour have picked up a council.
- Scotland has the Tories down 60 seats. Labour are up 17, the Lib Dems 21, the SNP 24, and the Greens 15. This has been a very tough day for Douglas Ross, just one year after he defied expectations to hold every Conservative seat at Holyrood and deny Sturgeon a majority. Ruth Davidson, like my sources in Wales, pins the blame on the national picture.
- Northern Ireland currently has the following MLA totals: Sinn Fein ten, DUP two, Alliance two, UUP one, Others one. We can only hope that ratio is an artefact of the declarations!
- Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP leader, has been elected to the Assembly. However, he apparently won’t commit to resigning his seat at Westminster in order to sit there. Apparently he will meet with DUP officers to decide the ‘best way forward’.
- Meanwhile the Welsh Conservatives I’m speaking to are giving mixed signals on whether or not they expected things to be this bad (outwith Monmouthshire, which all agree is a surprise). Sources say that events at Westminster have “dominated” the campaign.
- The latest scores from the BBC have the Conservatives down 22 seats in Wales and 53 in Scotland, with Labour up 28 and 16 respectively.
- Depressingly, the SNP are up 22 councillors on last time. Whatever one’s stance on the constitutional question, it is extraordinary to see a government performing so badly secure such a result.
- The Democratic Unionists have said that “the door is open” to Alex Easton, the Independent Unionist MLA who has topped the poll in North Down. He previously quit the party over a lack of “respect, discipline or decency” in its conduct. This will be significant if the DUP runs Sinn Fein close on the seat count; if Easton would make the different on a Unionist First Minister, the pressure would be immense.
- Meanwhile early reports of pressure on the smaller parties seem to be holding up, according to the News Letter it looks as if Roy Beggs, a UUP veteran who has served in the Assembly since 1998, may not retain his seat. Mike Nesbitt, their former leader, is also apparently fighting to stay in Stormont in the face of a “TUV surge”.
- In yesterday’s column, I reported predictions that Plaid Cymru might have a disappointing day today. It isn’t the case so far – the nationalists are up on seats and have taken overall control of a council.
- Meanwhile the BBC reports that Vale of Glamorgan, which the Conservatives controlled from 2017 to 2019, is “too close to call”. If they take it, it will make the poor outcome in usually-solid Monmouthshire all the stranger. However, the Tories are apparently facing an uphill battle in the north-east, where they won big in 2019 and have been running several councils in coalition.
- In Northern Ireland, the Alliance surge continues as the party tops the poll in Strangford, a solidly unionist seat in the east of the Province. They have thus returned the first MLA of 2022.
- So far the Scottish results seem good for everyone except the Conservatives (and Independents), with the Nationalists, Labour, Liberal Democrats, and Greens all up on the last election whilst the Tories have lost 21 seats.
- In Wales, Plaid Cymru have picked up a seat to take overall control of Gwynedd, whilst the Conservatives are now apparently braced for a “convincing defeat” in Monmouthshire.
- Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, it looks as if Alex Easton, an Independent Unionist and former DUP MLA, is set to top the poll, continuing that constituency’s decades-long habit of returning independent or minor-party representatives.
- Yesterday, I mentioned in my column that the forecasts didn’t seem too bad for the Conservatives in Wales. That may have been too optimistic: the BBC reports that David RT Davies fears that Monmouthshire Council – the only one under overall Tory control – is too close to call.
- More bad news for the Party in Scotland too, where it has so far returned only one of the councillors it returned in Glasgow last time, whilst three have lost their seats.
- But Wales hasn’t been too kind to Labour either: the leader of Caerphilly Council was unseated in what the BBC has called a “massive defeat”.
- Scotland continues to be kinder: the party has managed to scoop West Dunbartonshire council from No Overall Control. This is the stomping ground of Jackie Baillie, their combative deputy leader, who’s holding her marginal seat at last year’s Holyrood elections stymied Nicola Sturgeon’s push for an overall majority.
- We’re starting to get results in from Scotland, and so far they do seem to bear out the predictions that Labour will come second across the country (every local authority is getting elected today). There has also been good news for the (pro-independence) Scottish Greens, who have posted a couple of “absolutely astonishing” results.
- Also, a reminder that the implications of the Northern Irish result may be more complex than at first glance: it’s perfectly possible that Sinn Fein could edge out the DUP whilst the overall pro-UK vote holds up better than the nationalist one. Under the original rules of the Belfast Agreement, this would have meant a Unionist would be nominated as First Minister.
- So far, the main chatter out of Northern Ireland is about the surge in support for the Alliance Party. This is the party which doesn’t formally designate as either nationalist or unionist and, despite its origins as a ‘liberal unionist’ option, has no official stance on the question of the Province’s sovereignty.
- This seems to have come not just at the expense of the DUP, who risk getting pipped to second place, but also the smaller Ulster Unionist Party and SDLP; the latter’s deputy leader is reportedly in trouble, and some analysts are suggesting one or both may not even qualify for a post in the next executive.
- By contrast, the harder-line Traditional Unionist Voice seem to be optimistic about expanding their presence in the Assembly. At present only Jim Allister, their leader and a former DUP MEP, holds a seat.
Henry Hill reporting.
Good afternoon! The local elections in England are well underway, but there are also local contests in Scotland and Wales and a pivotal election for the Northern Ireland Assembly being counted today. We’ll be bringing you the results as they come in!
- I did a run-down of what is expected to happen in each nation in yesterday’s Red, White, and Blue column. In sum, it looks as if Labour are going to do well in Scotland and Wales, and the Tories badly in Scotland but OK in Wales. (Recriminations in Scotland are underway, see tweet.)
- Should the polls be right, Sinn Fein are heading for a historic first-placed win in Northern Ireland, which – thanks to rules changes the DUP agitated for – will give them the right to nominate the strictly titular but symbolically important post of First Minister. I wrote a bit about what this means for Unionism this morning.
- As for the timings, we’re apparently expecting the first Welsh councils to declare around 2pm (Wales Online has a full list of the timings) and the first Scottish ones at about 12.30 (ditto the Daily Record). Northern Irish results will also start coming in this afternoon.