Chelgate Newsletter – Election Special
Welcome to our local elections special bulletin.
Local Elections were held in over 150 local authorities, with more than 4,300 seats up for grabs across metropolitan and district councils, unitary authorities and London boroughs.
It was certainly a mixed-night for Labour and the Conservatives who both lost control of key councils and failed to make the gains that many were predicting. The UKIP vote also imploded with the party losing over 90 seats and winning only two in Derby.
We’ll be analysing the results in more detail but an initial view of the key battlegrounds and results are below.
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It was a disappointing night for Labour who failed to build on its better-than-expected performance in last year’s general election.
The talk was of ‘councillors gained rather than councils’ as the Conservatives held onto their flagship councils in Wandsworth and Westminster, and gained Barnet from no overall control.
Labour held control in Barking and Dagenham, Brent, Camden, Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Hammersmith and Fulham, Merton, Redbridge, Southwark and Waltham Forest.
They are expected to maintain control in Hackney, Islington, Harrow, Hounslow, Lambeth, Lewisham, Greenwich and Newham when they declare later this morning. They also expected to hold Haringey which has been embroiled in a left vs left battle with political infighting seeing councillors resigning and being deselected, as well as the resignation of the former Leader, Claire Kober. All eyes will now be on the leadership contest in the coming weeks, with Haringey being seen as a litmus test of how Corbyn’s brand of Labour may play out at a local level.
Labour failed to take Barnet council which the Conservatives gained with the current leader Barry Rawlings, saying that in some wards the antisemitism row had made a difference at the ballot box.
The Conservatives will maintain control of Bexley and neighbouring Bromley in the south-east of London. Both areas saw a strong performance from UKIP in 2014, but as expected these votes largely went to Conservatives, following a collapse in support.
They also increased their control in Hillingdon winning four extra seats. This was a Labour target but they failed to gain the the 4% swing needed to win.
Kensington and Chelsea remained Conservative in a closely watched campaign, following Emma Dent Coad’s win for Labour in the 2017 General Election and the Grenfell fire tragedy.
Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats made big gains in Richmond-upon-Thames with 24 new councillors, to take back control of the council from the Conservatives. They clearly benefitted from opposing Brexit in a borough that recorded one of the highest remain votes in the country.
They also consolidated their position in Sutton, retaining control of the council.
And Havering remained under no overall control and is likely to be run by a Conservative-led coalition with East Havering Residents’ Association.
The wider picture
Outside of London, the story was one of Conservative consolidation, benefitting from a collapse in UKIP’s vote in many areas.
The party tightened its grip in places like Swindon, Nuneaton, Basildon and Southend. These are the seats that Labour needs to win, if they are to win a general election.
There were also a number of key battlegrounds to watch out for in the results with razor thin majorities for both the Conservatives and Labour in a number of areas.
The Conservatives lost five seats in Trafford in Greater Manchester which went under no overall control. Labour is now the largest party with 30 councillors, having won four seats – one ahead of the Conservatives. Trafford’s result wiped out the only blue-controlled part of the council map, which Labour now dominate.
In the Midlands Labour lost in Amber Valley in Derbyshire and failed to make inroads in Worcester which is a hung council. The Conservatives are the largest party here, but it is the Greens who will hold the balance of power after picking up an extra seat.
The Conservatives picked up nine seats in Nuneaton and Bedworth, eight of them at Labour’s expense, as the UKIP vote collapsed. In Dudley, UKIP lost all seven of the seats it was defending, which pushed the Conservatives level with Labour on 35 seats and a council in no overall control
The Conservatives are also likely to see a UKIP dividend in Crawley, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Redditch and Calderdale.
Meanwhile counting will begin in a number of areas this morning, with results expected later in places like Milton Keynes. The council is currently under no overall control and has been since 2006. Both the Tories and Labour have 22 seats each and the Lib Dems have 13. Labour has been the minority administration since 2014 with support from the Lib Dems. It is unlikely that any party will able to get to 29 which is the magic number to assume control.
Moving South, Labour retained Oxford while the Tories kept West Oxfordshire, despite losing five seats. Oxford City remains a red island in a sea of blue.
Counting in Cherwell is yet to begin, but a Conservative majority is guaranteed. Neighbouring South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Council’s next elections will be held in 2019.
In Surrey the Conservatives majority in Tanbridge was cut down to one, losing eight councillors to the Liberal Democrats and Residents Groups. The loss is being partly blamed on opposition to plans to build a garden village in the area.
Meanwhile the Conservatives have been celebrating in Essex after unseating the Colchester leader and beating the Basildon Labour-UKIP alliance. The Conservatives held Epping Forest, Southend and Brentwood.
Labour kept Harlow while Colchester and Thurrock remained in no overall control.
Hardware takes Harlow
However, the closest battle of the night was in Harlow and involved Chelgate’s Michael Hardware who won the ward of Staple Tye by a single vote.
“It is probably one of the most stressful nights of my life,” said Mr Hardware, who was only declared the victor after four recounts.
“The first count was me losing by two, then the recount was me winning by one, then a further two recounts with me winning by one. There was a big sigh of relief at any result, as I did not know we would actually make it through the night.”