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David Colbear

Was I right about the local elections?

At the start of May, I bravely/foolishly (delete as applicable) wrote a blogpost with my predictions about what would influence the local elections. With the publication today of The MJ’s map of political control (sponsored by IMPOWER) I wanted to revisit my predictions on the factors most likely to influence voters and election outcomes.

  • Prediction 1: Turnout will be lower than 2015. It was going to take a miracle of electorate enthusiasm for me to get this one wrong. I can’t say I was delighted to be proved right, but there were no surprises here with turnout in the sample of wards I looked at around the 30% figure. I think this reflected a mix of disillusionment with politicians and a general ennui about local government.
  • Prediction 2: National issues are significant in local elections, and Brexit will dwarf all others. Again, it didn’t take Nostradamus to predict this, but the election results made it clear people weren’t happy – whether through the drop in turnout, the huge Conservative losses, the failure of Labour to catch up, the gains for Lib Dems, Greens and Independents (more of them later) and UKIP bucking recent trends by holding a few seats. I will leave it to politicians to interpret the results – although I suspect this week’s European Elections may provide some more clarity.
  • Prediction 3: Austerity could also be a significant issue. I can’t claim to have watched every moment of election coverage but I don’t recall hearing very much about austerity at all. Some Labour-supporting media outlets may want to frame the election results as a vote against reductions in council resources, but I will take some persuading.
  • Prediction 4: Local interest parties might unsettle two-party politics in some areas. ‘Independent’ councillors in their many varied forms made a big impact at this election with a large increase in seats (up 604 to 1,044, according to the BBC’s interpretation of Independent) and gaining control of a couple of councils. This may have been a vote against the mainstream parties or a vote for local representation – it’s hard to be definitive – but the swathes of grey on the new MJ map are in part due to the many councillors now operating outside the main parties.

Overall, things went as I expected. It will be fascinating to see how the next four years work out for the councils involved – particularly those with significant numbers of independent members. However, there are many rivers to cross before we get to the 2023 elections and it would be a very brave person who predicts what happens between now and then.

The MJ’s map of political control (sponsored by IMPOWER) is published today. If you would like to request a copy, please get in touch.


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