"As I write, at least 13 councils are still waiting to count (and I am completely exhausted). Any comment on the outcome has to be provisional and impressionistic. It looks at this stage as if Labour will lose around 300 seats, the Conservatives will gain about 250, and the Liberal Democrats will roughly stand still.
This is a good result for the Conservatives, certainly at the upper end of most peoples’ expectations. The BBC has projected a national vote share of 40%, the highest share won by the Conservatives since 1992. It is important to note, however, that this is simply a projection, based on a minority of wards contested. The vote share won by minor parties in this projection is almost certainly an underestimate. Turnout has been high, perhaps as much as 40%.
On the ground, the Conservatives have advanced strongly in London (with a net gain of six councils), in the South (winning councils such as Winchester, Hastings and Crawley) and the West Midlands, winning overall control of Coventry for the first time since the late 1970s. In the North, Bolton, Chorley and Bury have shown encouraging Conservative results, but elsewhere they have performed less well. Wirral and Sefton once Conservative strongholds, have shown no Conservative gains, and once again, they have failed to make any breakthrough in Manchester or Newcastle.
There have been some striking exceptions to this good performance
however. Richmond was lost to the Liberal Democrats, and Gosport to No
Overall Control. In addition, the Conservatives came close to losing
Enfield (where the Save Chase Farm Hospital campaigners ate into their
vote), and lost ground in Brent, Waltham Forest, and Barking and
In general, the regions that the Conservatives did well in last night,
are the regions they did well in at the General Election (with the
exception of the West Midlands). Southern voters are clearly turning
from Labour to the Conservatives; Northern voters are, in general,
Labour did badly, but given the events of the past fortnight, are
probably relieved not to have done worse. They have lost at least half
their London boroughs, and are projected to have polled 26% of the vote
nationwide, at least 7% down on 2002. In next year’s round of local
elections, they will probably poll well below 25% of the vote. They
have however won Lambeth, and have come close to winning back
Islington. More importantly for them, they have performed strongly
against the Liberal Democrats in Sheffield and Manchester.
For the Liberal Democrats, it’s a case of one step forward, one step
back. Gains in Richmond were offset by losses in Sutton and Kingston.
Strong performances in Brent, Camden, Haringey and Oldham, were matched
by weak performances in Harrow, Tower Hamlets, Solihull and Bolton.
They will be disappointed not to have done better, but compared to
their position in January, they have done very well indeed.
Among the minor parties, Respect, British National Party, and Greens
have all performed well. Respect will have at least 11 seats on Tower
Hamlets, one in Birmingham, and doubtless several in Newham. Both the
Greens and the British National Party will have made gains of twenty
five or more seats nationwide by the end of today. With 11 or 12 wins
in Barking and Dagenham, it seems clear that the BNP would have taken
control of that council if they had fielded a full slate of candidates.
What is striking is the sheer oddness of so many results. Not only did
neighbouring boroughs move in different directions, but neighbouring
wards moved differently. What explains the Conservatives winning all
three seats in Gospel Oak for example, while losing all three in
Belsize? Or Labour gaining two out of three seats in Tokyngton, while
losing all three in Queensbury?
The electorate is restless, and as well as punishing the government, is happy to punish incumbent councils, and councillors."
Sean Fear stood for the Conservative Party in the Brent local elections.