Friday, May 02, 2008

Local elections: initial thoughts

I'm sure many of those reading this are pooped and them some, I know I am. I'll not be writing a thesis here but thought I should put down a few observations from a very disappointing, worrying, night.

Green successes far too modest

The Greens, that I campaigned for, advanced - although not as much as we were expecting (this is without the London results announced). The Party's precis of election results gives you some detail although the nine gains and four loses (making a net total of five more councillors) is still moving forwards, even if at a very modest pace.

Within this is the very important news that Norwich Greens are the first Greens in the country to become the official opposition on a city council and are only two seats behind the minority Labour administration (13 seats to 15). Astonishingly, in the vote share across the all important Parliamentary constituency of Norwich South the Greens outstripped their Labour rivals by two thousand votes putting Adrian Ramsey in good shape to defeat Charles Clarke when the general election is called. Really.

The vote across Norwich South reads Green: 29%, Labour: 25%, Tory: 23%, Lib Dem: 22%

I was amused to spot this comment from one Labour supporting Norwich resident;

"In Norwich the Greens did well. As they always seem to do. Very depressing. Labour deserve a kicking, yes - but not by those idiots.

"The thing that annoys me most about the results round here is that the (Labour) leader of the council was mouthing off to me last month about what a shower of twats the Greens are and how fucked off he is that they keep doing well. And where were Labour over these past few weeks? Nowhere. But you couldn’t move for Green activists and mountains of literature."

I think this is exactly right (well, not the idiots bit). Labour don't have the activists and have not got a clue how to deal with the well oiled Norwich Greens machine - I'll not be sad to see us devour them frankly.

Here in Cambridge the Greens won their first ever councillor in the shape of Margaret Wright. Credit goes to her and James Youd who are the architects of this success (with a convincing margin against John Durrant, an Old Labour councillor of more than twenty years standing, commiserations to him).

One interesting point to note is that the fuller results show something of the wider undertow in politics that has largely gone unnoted by mainstream pundits, the slow breakup of the traditional political scene. Last year only Labour and the LibDems were represented on Cambridge Council - now they are joined by a Green, a Tory and John Hipkin - the former Mayor who fell out with his old chums in the LibDems - I think that's quite healthy.

Economic problems lead to a bad night in general

Whilst Greens continue to make progress this is on the back of very hard work. Where we stand paper candidates (or have token campaigns) we have stood still, there does not seem to be a groundswell towards progressive politics despite the fact that gains can be made where we are professional and organised.

The shift towards the Tories nationally indicates some movement to the right and the loss of swathes of Labour councillors (over three hundred of them) is not the loss of lots of little Blairs but probably number some of the better part of the party who are genuinely committed to their communities. The disillusion with the floundering Labour Party is not leading, electorally at least, to a space to their left that progressives have been able to exploit fully, and the Tories fill that gap.

The hard left (some of whom appear to have abandoned everything outside of London) seems to be declaring no great breakthroughs (a councillor in Birmingham for Respect and Blaenau Gwent council has been won by the independent group based around the Old Labour activists who broke from the party a few years ago). However the far right have made some small gains. The BNP have won twelve seats and UKIP gained three council seats (who votes for UKIP for council ffs?) but let's not pretend this is of any great moment.

The big news of the night though is that Labour is being rejected on a local level as well as nationally and the next general election (which will almost certainly be in 2010) will almost certainly see a Tory victory. That fills me with rage, but it's shot through with pessimism and frustration.


Anonymous said...


Well done for getting a seat in Cambridge. However, can't help but feel depressed at the overall result.

Five extra seats nationally is very slow progress.

I think that allying ourselves with Ken did us no favours in London where I thought we might reach 5% or so.

It looks like voters are punishing Labour and unfortunately most are moving rightward and not towards us.

Don Fraser

scott redding said...

Near to us, Solihull gained their first ever Green councillor, defeating the Labour leader. In Coventry, we received 14.5% and 9.8% in our two best wards. The University of Warwick was also encouraging (30% at its polling station). Our other 13 wards were a situation where paper candidates were outpolled by the BNP two-to-one. I try to convince myself that this is down to the background noise of "British Jobs For British Workers" or "Polish asylum seekers are coming here to take our housing and eat our swans" from the Mail/Express. Then I realise that there is a tremendous amount of background noise about climate change as well.

Jim Jay said...

Hi Don,

I suspect this election was very difficult for us - and it's only because we have some really excellent teams that we've been able to weather the storm and come out with extra councillors.

Allying with Ken was extremely important though - not just because the very tight race was won by the wrong person in the end and the influence of our AMs has just been drastically reduced - but also we'd have been punished by voters for not supporting him!

Look at the Lib Dems in London, they are in free fall because they refused to take sides on *the* key question of the election. I agree it was tricky - we probably lost some support but overall we had more people voting for us in a context where all parties outside the labour/tory axis suffered.

I should also point out that the labour vote in london went up (I think)... actually I'll check that...