The media is not telling us the whole story. We need to put the results in context.
There has been plenty of analysis of last Thursday’s local council elections; mostly extrapolating the results into national party performance, but what has been lacking is the actual context of those results. This is particularly vital when the BBC and other media outlets are stretching spin to a laughable extreme, burying the biggest Tory collapse in a decade by not discussing it at all — and calling this a Labour loss.
The local context of the wins and losses is vital to understanding what has actually happened here and only from this can we make actual predictions about tactically what we should do going forward and what the mood actually is in these areas on Brexit. This analysis by Sue Marsh (@suey2y — transcribed here with permission) is precisely what the media are not telling you.
“I don’t think anyone will analyse the quite staggering wipe-out the Tories faced in the South on Thursday. Of 64 councils, the Tories lost seats in all but four; in one it was only due to a UKIP collapse (where Labour picked up 16 seats, Conservatives 7 and Independent (Faragist) 7). They didn’t just lose; they were rejected throughout the entire South, losing an average 8.5 seats across all 64 councils. They lost 20 of the 49 councils they held south of London.
“Twenty-eight per cent of the councils contested were in the South. The Conservatives lost a third of their total vote in just a quarter of the country. The key thing to remember is that until recently, Labour, Libdems or Greens may have held barely any seats at all on these councils (Worthing, Arun, Chichester). These are true Tory strongholds. The statistics that follow are eye watering.
Of the 20 councils they lost, they lost 13 to No Overall Control:
- Arun (Con -21, Lib +17)
- Folkestone (Con -9, Lab +5, Green +6)
- Mid Devon
- N Somerset
Most that went to NOC were due to historic Lib surges.
“One was lost to Labour: Gravesham (Con -5, Lab +3). Six were lost to the Libdems, often with exceptional surges of 15–30 seats:
- N Devon
- Somerset West & Taunton (Con -31, Lib +19)
- S Somerset
- Winchester (Con -6, Lib +6, no Lab)
“If you look at these councils, they overwhelmingly used to be Libdem. Labour were nowhere, UKIP just a few pockets. For decades, Libdems built their votes in these places and Labour voters were happy to lend their votes too (to keep out the Tories). That can only have happened again yesterday where Libs could beat Tories. Everywhere they could, and a few they couldn’t, they did win. The only conclusion to be drawn from this is that the Libdems are a huge threat to the Tories again.
“In the South, Labour’s real wins are where we’re fighting UKIP and Farage. Labour got a staggering 16 seats from UKIP in Thanet, won Gravesham council outright and gained 5 seats each in Folkestone and Worthing. We know how to beat Farage here; we’ve had to do it for decades. This should please Remainers very much.
“Finally, what about Leave and Remain? Well, in the South at least, there was no negative Remain effect to Labour at all. Categorically, Labour won seats everywhere that mattered. Everywhere. Labour lost 13 seats across all 20 councils in the South, mainly in areas where the Libdem surges blew all the other parties away.
“And a word of warning: almost all the elected Independents (Indys) were straight swaps from UKIP. Where the Libdemss surged, Indys often did too. Where Labour did well, Indys almost always did too. This was a pincer movement on the Conservatives from both sides (centre and right). The huge gains for Libdems and Greens shouldn’t hide concerning high wins by these right-wing independents, just waiting for Farage and the Brexit Party.”
In conclusion then, what we see in these councils is very far from a Labour loss but a massive Tory protest vote and swing back to the Libdems in territory they previously held. It is not indicative of a vote for Remain — very far from it. If anything, UKIP voters moved to ex-UKIP independents who made huge gains.
And let’s not forget the Labour canvassers and activists working tirelessly in these places, who defended the Labour vote and in some wards won outright in the face of a relentless and unprecedented media onslaught against the party and its leadership, which continues unabated.