Are the public willing to compromise on Brexit?

Are the public willing to compromise on Brexit?

by Ben Walker, 16 Jul 2018

A new Deltapoll survey has shed some light on, what with the news about the Chequers deal now settled in the minds of the British public, what they think the government should be willing to compromise on in the Brexit negotiations.

Some of the responses were expected. 52% of voters think “the ability to decide our own laws” should not be up for negotiation, but 55% now think money payed to the EU each year should be struck me, perhaps, as something new. An ICM survey in April found two thirds opposed to paying an exit bill of £10bn or more,  but I wonder if prompting figures is the best way to gauging public support. Most voters in the US, and I suspect the UK, are clueless when it comes to the size of the foreign aid budget, but the sentiment of the public thinking it too large exists nonetheless, and so that is why I think the 55% figure is an interesting one, and perhaps indicative of a shift in opinion.

By and large though, the British people are monumentally split. Helpful.

As expected. Remain voters split 47% in favour of it being up for discussion, 45% against.

Leave voters are split down the middle on this, with 45% believing the money we pay should be up for negotiation, 46% against.

Tables for the Deltapoll survey available here.

Theresa May has lost the first week of her Chequers war

Theresa May has lost the first week of her Chequers war

by Ben Walker, 13 Jul 2018

“When I asked Theresa May on Saturday if she would do a broadcast to the nation to sell the deal, she looked at me like I was an idiot”.

These are the words of Tim Shipman, Political Editor of the Sunday Times. To me they helpfully epitomise why the Brexit deal agreed last Friday at Chequers has gone down badly with the public.

Most voters offer as little as a few minutes a week, if that, to political news, and so first impressions and bite-sized stories that can be easily understood matter hugely. The main stories that have so far featured in the aftermath of Chequers have been Donald Trump’s put-down of a US-UK trade deal and the resignations of David Davis and Boris Johnson. It’s easier for the public to become aware of and understand the resignation of Boris, a figure who 51% of Leave voters have a favourable view of (notably up from 45% in Nov 2017) in protest of the deal, than the detail of the deal itself. It doesn’t help the cause of the government, either, that Theresa May is yet to make any serious attempt to engage with the media, and by extension, the electorate.

So in the space of this week, what do the public think?

Belief in the Chequers deal being ‘bad for Britain’ is the view of 42% of the nation, but not as split by voting intention as some might expect. Though there have been demonstrations of support from predominantly Remain voting Conservative MPs, just 15% of Remain voters and 14% of Leave voters think the deal good for Britain. In contrast, 51% of Leave voters and 42% of Remain voters see the deal as bad for the nation.

Much of the public (40%) view the deal as ‘too soft’. 66% of Leave voters are in agreement with this, whereas Remain voters are this time quite split between thinking it too hard (23%), too soft (18%) or just about right (18%).

It also needs noting over one in three Brits (35%) don’t have a clue.

[YouGov]: "Thinking about the approach that Theresa May is taking towards Brexit, do you think she is aiming for a Brexit that is..."

Theresa May’s favourability with the nation has crashed to a record low. Just one in five Brits view her favourably (down 9pts on May), as opposed to 62% who view her unfavourably (up 7pts). YouGov’s Matthew Smith points out that those turning against her seem to be predominantly Brexit voters.

This newfound alienation with the swathe of voters that gave the Tories an extended honeymoon in 2016-17 appears to be already doing the blues damage in the polls, though as to whether it’s terminal and whether these votes do drift in large enough numbers to other parties rather than stay loyal but dissatisfied is yet to be seen. One factor which may influence as to whether this shift will be terminal might be who leads the Conservative party after Mrs May’s departure, something perhaps entirely dependent on how they responded to the Chequers deal.

The latest YouGov voting intention puts the Conservatives on 37%, the lowest share with the pollster since April 2016; and UKIP on 6%, its highest share with the pollster since May 2017. This is also reflected in the latest Survation (though surveyed before the resignations), where they are down 3pts and behind Labour; but not in the latest ICM, which has the Tories 2pts ahead and unchanged on two weeks previous.

It would be wrong to draw from these findings that it is Leave voters alone who are leading the dissatisfied charge against the government’s plan. The fact there was little disparity in the YouGov survey between Leave and Remain voters on the view that the deal is bad for Britain is particularly interesting. If Mrs May’s intentions were to make both sides of a divided electorate unhappy over Brexit, then it appears she’s passed with flying colours. Early indications point to a fall in support for the Tories, the potential return of UKIP, and an increase in support for a referendum on the final deal. Survation, albeit from June, had 48% supporting a second vote; and YouGov’s more recent tracker (posing a different but similar question) has opposition to a vote ahead, though down 4pts on when it was last asked.

Though the deal has so far failed to please the nation, let alone May’s own voters, perhaps it really isn’t relevant what the public think, for the votes that matter the most at this moment in time are those sitting in the Commons.

Previewing the Lewisham East by-election

The Lewisham East by-election, a preview

House of Commons; caused by the resignation of Labour MP Heidi Alexander, who had served since 2010.

by Andrew Teale, 14 Jun 2018

Fifty-three weeks on from the snap general election and we come to the second parliamentary by-election of the 2017 Parliament, and the first in Great Britain. It’s also the first time in six months that Andrew’s Previews has had cause to visit London, as every councillor in the 32 London Boroughs was up for re-election last May so there have not been any by-elections in the capital so far this year. With your columnist being based in that unusually sunny part of the world (for the moment, touch wood), Greater Manchester, London was not high up my list of things to write about regarding the 2018 local elections, and I managed to deliver multiple pieces to Britain Elects on those polls without mentioning the capital once. Would that some commentators could have done likewise. Nevertheless it is legitimately London’s turn for the limelight this week.

General election vote share:

London has always been a cosmopolitan city, and the name Lewisham refers to an immigrant of an earlier age: a man from Jutland called Leof or Leofsa, who came over in the Jutish invasion of the late fourth century (or later) and made his home here. As did so many others in the last century and a half. Leof’s home – Lewisham – was still a rural area until the railway came in the 1840s, encouraging the rapid development of commuter housing in a district just six or seven miles from Charing Cross; in those days the area now covered by this constituency was part of Kent, before being incorporated into the County of London on its creation in 1889.

When the Metropolitan Borough of Lewisham was created in that year much of its area was still farmland, but the gaps were progressively filled in. The East constituency’s housing stock still predominantly dates from the nineteenth century; and by the 1930s, with the completion of the London County Council’s Downham estate, there was no more room left. The Downham estate still occupies much of the southern end of this constituency: developed in the late 1920s, it was considered a showpiece estate and described by Lewisham council as a “garden city”. Much of the estate’s original population was working-class people rehoused from substandard housing in places such as Rotherhithe and the East End, to the disgust of locals over the county boundary in Bromley who went so far as to build a wall to keep the riff-raff out. History doesn’t record whether Lewisham paid for the wall.

Further in is the constituency’s main commercial centre, Catford. Despite there being a large fibreglass sculpture of a cat here, the name actually refers to a cattle ford on the River Ravensbourne. Lewisham council is based in Catford, and is overseeing extensive redevelopment of the town centre.

To the east lie the railway suburbs of Grove Park and Hither Green, together with Lee which was one of the two parishes which merged to create Lewisham borough in 1889. Karl Marx lived in Lee for a time, and at the northern end of the seat is another area which, although for many years it has been the most affluent part of this constituency, has a radical political history. The Peasant’s Revolt of 1381, Jack Cade’s rebellion of 1450 and the Cornish rebellion of 1497 all mustered at Blackheath. It’s easy to see why. To this day Blackheath is an area of high ground and open space with excellent communications: the Roman Watling Street and the modern A2 pass over the heath on the way to Canterbury and the Channel Ports, leading to the area being a haunt of highwaymen in the eighteenth century. If the Nazi Operation Sealion had ever come to fruition, Blackheath would have been the last line of defence before London.

The open space of Blackheath and easy distance from London led to strong associations with sport. By tradition this was the first place that golf was played in England; Kent played several first-class cricket matches on the heath in the eighteenth century; three Blackheath clubs were among the founder members of the FA in 1863; and the first rugby match between England and Wales was played here in 1881. Each April Blackheath comes to prominence as the starting point for the London Marathon.

However, the main industry on the heath in days gone by (if you discount the predations of highwaymen) was gravel extraction, which made a pretty penny for the landowner: the Lord of the Manor of Lewisham, the Earls of Dartmouth. And this is an appropriate point to start to consider those former MPs whom the winner of this by-election will tread in the footsteps of, for the first MP for a seat to bear the name “Lewisham” was William Legge, the 6th Earl of Dartmouth. A Conservative, Legge was first elected to Parliament in 1878 in an uncontested by-election for the predecessor seat of West Kent, and at this point in time he was generally known by the courtesy title of Viscount Lewisham. He had the traditional upper-class education: Eton, Christ Church Oxford, officer in the South Staffordshire Regiment; and the year before being elected to Parliament he had played first-class cricket for the MCC.

Viscount Lewisham took over the constituency that bore his name when it was created in the redistribution of 1885. He defeated the Liberal candidate Benjamin Whitworth, an outgoing MP who sought election here after his seat – Drogheda, in what’s now the Republic of Ireland – was abolished. Lewisham beat Whitworth in Lewisham by the margin of 58-42, and increased his majority to 69.5-30.5 the following year. The 1886 general election returned the Conservatives to power under Lord Salisbury, and Viscount Lewisham entered the government as Vice-Chairman of the Household. Under the rules in force then Lewisham had to get his government appointment confirmed by seeking re-election to the House, and nobody bothered to oppose him in the resulting by-election.

Viscount Lewisham succeeded to his father’s titles and entered the Lords in 1891. The resulting Lewisham by-election was held easily for the Conservatives by John Penn. Described as “one of the best-known Parliamentary golfers” with his own private course near North Berwick, Penn came from a business rather than an aristocratic background: he ran the family marine engineering firm of John Penn and Sons, although he wasn’t an engineer himself. So far, so Donald Trump. Penn easily won the 1891 by-election and the 1892 general election, and after that nobody bothered to oppose him for the 1895 and 1900 elections.

John Penn’s death in 1903 resulted in the third Lewisham by-election in as many decades. The 1903 by-election was contested, with the Liberals putting up a young Scottish barrister called James Cleland, who was a London county councillor for the borough and chairman of the LCC’s Parks and Establishment committees. Cleland, who would later serve as MP for Glasgow Bridgeton from 1906 to December 1910, and died in 1914 at the early age of 40, had the best Liberal result yet in Lewisham – 42.5% – but it wasn’t good enough to displace the Tories. Their winning candidate was Edward Coates, a stockbroker, Major in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment and noted art collector. Coates had a long career in the seat, easily weathering the Liberal landslide of 1906; he would go on to serve as chairman of Surrey county council and be appointed baronet.

The growing population of Lewisham meant that it was divided into two seats at the 1918 redistribution. Sir Edward Coates sought re-election in Lewisham West, leaving the way clear in East for the new Conservative candidate Lt-Col Assheton Pownall. Pownall, who was elected unopposed in 1918 with the Coalition’s coupon, had come from an engineering family; he was a London county councillor for Lewisham from 1907 to 1910 and had fought Rotherhithe in the two 1910 elections. He had served in the London Regiment during the Great War, and shortly after his election to Parliament was appointed as a military OBE. With a safe seat Pownall could throw himself into the work of Parliament; he gained a reputation for hard work on committees, and was knighted for his political service in 1926.

But by this time demographic changes were hard at work. The completion of the Downham estate fundamentally changed the character of Lewisham East, making Labour competitive. Pownall had a close shave in the 1929 election which brought Labour to power for the first time, holding his seat by just 402 votes over Labour candidate John Wilmot. Wilmot stood for this seat three times before getting into Parliament by winning the 1933 Fulham East by-election; he was a minister under Attlee before ending his days in the Lords. Labour went on to put up another future MP against Pownall, Freda Corbet (Camberwell North West 1945-50, Peckham 1950-Feb 1974) who stood here in 1935.

Sir Assheton Pownall was finally swept away in the Attlee landslide of 1945, as Labour defeated the Conservatives nationally. The first non-Conservative MP for a Lewisham constituency was one of the major figures of the Labour Party: none other than the outgoing Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison. Morrison, who had transferred here after fifteen years (with broken service) as MP for Hackney South, can justifiably claim to be one of the people who had the most impact on what London has become today. In 1931, as transport minister in the Macdonald Labour government, Morrison introduced the bill which set up the nationalised London Transport; and in 1934 he took over the most powerful local government job in the UK, Leader of the London County Council. As LCC leader Morrison had effectively forced central government to pay for a replacement Waterloo Bridge, and introduced the Green Belt to put a stop to the relentless expansion of the city. We are still working through the long-term effects of those decisions, as we are with one of the more dubious parts of Morrison’s political legacy: he was the grandfather of Peter Mandelson.

Morrison had run the 1945 Labour election campaign, and in the Attlee government became Deputy Prime Minster and Leader of the Commons; other than the Green Belt, his main legacy of that period was probably the Festival of Britain and the resulting redevelopment of the South Bank of the Thames.

The 1950 redistribution awarded a third seat to the Metropolitan Borough of Lewisham, and this was effected by dividing Lewisham East into two new seats, called Lewisham South and Lewisham North. Morrison moved to the South division, based on Catford, Hither Green and the Downham estate, which promised to be safe Labour and indeed was. In 1950 he defeated a future Tory MP, Frederick Gough (Horsham, 1951-64) who had won the Military Cross for action during the landing at Taranto in 1943. Herbert Morrison retired from the Commons in 1959 and passed his seat on to Carol Johnson, who had a majority of just 3,081 in his first election – the Tory candidate he defeated was John Hunt, who went on to serve for 33 years as MP for Bromley and then Ravensbourne. In 1964 Mr Johnson had a rather more comfortable win against another future Tory MP, Barney Heyhoe (Heston and Isleworth 1970-February 1974, Brentford and Isleworth Feb 1974-1992).

Lewisham South may have been a safe Labour seat, but Lewsham North was a completely different proposition. Based on Lee, Blackheath and Lewisham itself, it was won for the Conservatives in 1950 by Sir Austin Hudson, 1st Baronet, who returned to the Commons after losing Hackney North in the Labour landslide. Sir Austen did not have a safe seat: his majorities over Labour rose from 2,491 in the 1950 election to 3,236 in the 1955 election. He died in November 1956.

Sir Austin’s widow Peggy, the dowager Lady Hudson, later employed a butler called Roy Fontaine to work on the Hudson family’s estate in Dumfriesshire. Fontaine was not who Lady Hudson had thought he was: his real name was Archibald Hall and he was a career criminal who had taken the job in order to steal Lady Hudson’s valuables. He never did carry that crime out, deciding that he liked the job and the employer too much, and that was a good thing from Lady Hudson’s point of view. Archibald Hall became one of the UK’s most notorious serial killers, committing his first murder while in Lady Hudson’s service; his five victims included the former Labour MP for Accrington Walter Scott-Elliot and Walter’s wife Dorothy.

Fortunately Sir Austin Hudson’s death was not suspicious; unfortunately for the Conservatives it forced a by-election in a marginal seat. The 1957 Lewisham North by-election was duly lost to Labour’s Niall MacDermot, who came from a legal family – his grandfather Hugh MacDermot had been Solicitor-General and Attorney-General for Ireland, and his uncle Frank MacDermot had served in the Irish Dáil and Seanad in the 1930s and 1940s. MacDermot won the by-election with a majority of 1,110 on a swing of over 5%. He failed to hold on to the by-election gain, but returned to the Commons in 1962 by winning the Derby North by-election, was a junior Treasury minister under Harold Wilson, and later served for twenty years as secretary-general of the International Commission of Jurists.

As stated, Niall MacDermot lost his seat in the Macmillan landslide of 1959. The new Tory MP for Lewisham North was only 28 but was already a household name. Chris Chataway had made his name on the athletics track as a long-distance runner: he had paced Roger Bannister to the first four-minute mile in 1954, and later that year won a silver medal in the 5,000 metres at the European Athletics Championships, before breaking the world record for that distance at a London v Moscow athletics competition at White City. That race was televised across Europe and turned Chataway into a celebrity: it almost certainly won him the title of BBC Sports Personality of 1954, the first year in which the award was made. After completing his PPE degree at Oxford, Chataway briefly went into journalism – along with a young Robin Day he was one of ITV’s first two newsreaders – and then found a niche in politics, being elected to the London County Council in 1958 as one of the three councillors for Lewisham North. The following year he was in Parliament, defeating MacDermot with a majority of 4,613.

In office Chataway campaigned for refugees and became a junior education minister; but in 1964 his majority fell to just 343 votes and he lost his seat in the Wilson landslide of 1966. That didn’t stop his political career though; the following year Chataway became leader of the Inner London Education Authority before returning to Parliament by winning the Chichester by-election in 1969. He retired from politics in October 1974, going into banking and charity work, and serving as chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority. It says something for our honours system that it was that, rather than anything else in Chataway’s varied career, which secured his knighthood.

The new Labour MP who defeated Chataway in 1966 was Roland Moyle, the son of Labour MP Arthur Moyle (Stourbridge 1945-50, Oldbury and Halesowen 1950-64). Roland was a Greenwich councillor, barrister and industrial relations consultant. He did well to hold onto Lewisham North in the 1970 election, with the Conservatives cutting his majority from 2,363 to 1,027. That was, of course, a defeat for Labour nationally which came shortly after England had been knocked out of the World Cup; and it’s noticeable that this by-election has been scheduled before Gareth Southgate’s team have had a chance to blot their copybook in this year’s tournament.

By now London’s local government had been reformed, with the Deptford and Lewisham Metropolitan Boroughs merging in 1964 to form the London Borough of Lewisham. The redistribution implemented at the February 1974 election cut the expanded Lewisham borough from four constituencies to three, and that meant a recreation of the Lewisham East constituency and the abolition of Lewisham North and Lewisham South. Although the details have changed, the Lewisham East constituency has been roughly the same ever since.

Roland Moyle won the Labour selection for the new seat, and in the February 1974 election saw off then Ealing councillor, future Tory MP (Hendon South 1987-97) and MEP (London North 1979-89) and recently re-elected Barnet councillor John Marshall by the much healthier majority of 6,306. Moyle now joined the ranks of government, serving as a junior Northern Ireland minister in the final Wilson administration and as a health minister under Callaghan. In the 1979 election Moyle narrowly defeated another future Tory MP, Humfrey Malins (Croydon North West 1983-92, Woking 1997-2010) by 1,593 votes.

That small Labour majority spelt trouble with the rise of the Liberal/SDP alliance and consequent split on the left wing of British politics. In the 1983 election in Lewisham East Moyle stood for a sixth term of office as the Labour candidate; the SDP candidate was Polly Toynbee (yes, that Polly Toynbee); and the Tories decided to emulate Chataway by selecting another candidate in their late 20s who had proven themselves at the highest levels of sport. Colin Moynihan had been elected President of the Oxford Union in 1976, ahead of a promising young woman called Benazir Bhutto, and won a Blue for boxing against Cambridge as a bantamweight, but he made his name on the water. Moynihan coxed the Oxford crew to victory in the 1977 Boat Race, and won a silver medal in the 1980 Moscow Olympics as cox to the British men’s eight. After that he became a political advisor to the Foreign Secretary, Francis Pym, and won the Conservative nomination for the 1983 election in Lewisham East. With Moyle polling 36% and Toynbee 22% the left-wing vote was split, and Moynihan’s 40% of the vote gave him the win by 1,909 votes. He increased his majority in 1987 and appropriately became minister for sport, later transferring to the Department of the Environment as junior minister responsible for renewable energy.

In 1991 Moynihan’s half-brother Antony, the 3rd Lord Moynihan, died of a heart attack in the Philippines. Antony’s complex life and family situation – at the time he was thought to have had five wives and six children – meant it was not clear who should inherit his peerage but Colin might have a claim on it. The situation hadn’t been resolved by the time of the 1992 election, in which Moynihan lost his seat to Labour by 1,095 votes as the left-wing vote split resolved itself. The House of Lords eventually decided that Antony Moynihan’s two sons should not inherit: his son by his fourth wife was ruled out by a paternity test, while his son by his fifth wife was found to be illegitimate because Antony had never properly divorced his fourth wife. That left Colin Moynihan as the heir, and in 1997 he resumed his political career from the red benches as the 4th Lord Moynihan. In 1999 Moynihan became an elected hereditary peer, and from 2005 to 2012 he was chairman of the British Olympic Association. Lord Moynihan is only 62, so we may not have heard the last of him yet.

The Labour candidate who defeated Moynihan was Bridget Prentice, a teacher who entered the Commons at the same time as her then husband, Gordon Prentice (Pendle 1992-2010). Mrs Prentice became a Labour whip in 1995 and had a long career on and off at junior ministerial level. She made the Lewisham East seat safe in 1997, and Labour have not been seriously threatened here since. Prentice saw off two future Tory MPs: Philip Hollobone (Kettering 2005-) in 1997 and James Cleverley (Braintree 2015-) in 2005.

Prentice was reprimanded by the Parliamentary standards commissioner in 2008 for misusing her communication allowance, and didn’t seek re-election in 2010. That left the way clear for Lewisham councillor and deputy mayor Heidi Alexander to win the Labour nomination and the seat. Alexander was appointed shadow health secretary by Jeremy Corbyn and ran Sadiq Khan’s campaign in the 2016 London mayoral election. She resigned from the shadow cabinet in the wake of the EU referendum result, and is leaving the Commons to work for Khan as a deputy mayor of London, with responsibility for transport. An appropriate job for a constituency where the train is the most popular way of getting to work – with the exception of the Downham estate, which is poorly served by rail and has very high bus usage. Given that some of this constituency, particularly the Catford area, is affected by the issues with the new Thameslink timetable (issues which, let me point out, are a drop in the ocean compared to the appalling shambles which is Northern Rail), Alexander has got her work cut out in her new job.

Alexander’s successor will inherit a London constituency with a typically multicultural electorate. The 2011 census picked up significant numbers of residents born in Jamaica, Nigeria, Poland and Sri Lanka; and four of the seven wards in Lewisham East – Rushey Green, Catford South, Whitefoot and Downham – are in the top 100 in England and Wales for both black and mixed-race population. Rushey Green ward, covering Catford town centre, is number 7 on the mixed-race list at 9% and number 14 on the black list at 38% – for comparison, the ward’s White British population is under 30%. Catford South ward makes the top 30 on both lists, and Whitefoot ward is also majority BAME. Both Whitefoot and Downham still have high levels of social housing reflecting their history. By contrast, Blackheath ward is the most affluent part of the seat and clearly attracts urban professionals: a majority of its workforce hold degrees, a majority of its workforce are in managerial or professional occupations, and it is in the top 100 wards in England and Wales for the 30-44 age bracket.

You don’t see much of this reflected in Lewisham East’s local election results: at least, not these days. Ten years ago the political picture was very different, with the Lib Dems being competitive in Blackheath, Lee Green and the Downham estate wards and the Tories holding council seats in Grove Park. The Coalition put paid to that, and since 2014 Labour have held every council seat in this constituency. In last month’s Lewisham council elections Labour topped the poll with 51% across the seat; the Tories were in second with 17% and the Greens third with 15%. Those Lib Dems who are talking up their chances of a good result might want to reflect that they were fourth across the constituency only last month, with over half of their local election vote coming out of Blackheath and Lee Green wards. Going back slightly further to 2016, Alexander’s new employer Sadiq Khan carried this constituency in the London Mayoral election with 54% to 23% for the Conservatives; in the London Members ballot Labour led with 50%, to 17% for the Conservatives and 10% for the Green Party. These figures don’t include postal votes which were not broken down to ward level, but the picture with postal votes included is unlikely to be significantly different.

Those figures suggest that Labour should not have much to worry about in holding this by-election. The 2017 general election result gives further cause for optimism: Alexander got a 6% swing in her favour to defeat the Conservative candidate by 68% to 23%, with no other candidates saving their deposit.

So with little realistic possibility of a seat loss here, the Westminster and media circle appears to have indulged in their favourite, if interminable, game of seeing this by-election through the prism of the two great Westminster imponderables of our time: the future of Brexit and the future of Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour selection has therefore been closely watched through that filter. It produced Janet Daby, who since 2010 has been a Lewisham councillor for Whitefoot ward (on the Downham estate). She is the deputy to Lewisham’s elected mayor, Damian Egan; has previously worked in social care; and is the director of a project tackling food poverty on the Downham estate.

The Conservative candidate is Ross Archer, who comes hotfoot from the 2018 Lewisham mayoral election in which he was a rather distant runner-up; he came closer to being elected in the simultaneous Lewisham council election where he was runner-up in the Tories’ best ward in Lewisham borough, Grove Park. Archer is described as a local scout leader who works for a not-for-profit company, and his flagship policy appears to be to get Grove Park railway station transferred from Zone 4 to Zone 3 in Transport for London’s zonal pricing system. For those not familiar with London transport, this will make trips between the city centre and Grove Park cheaper.

Standing for the Lib Dems is Lucy Salek, who chairs a refugee charity and fought Southend West in the 2017 general election. The Green candidate is Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, a schoolteacher who is campaigning on air pollution issues. UKIP have selected David Kurten, who has been a member of the London Assembly since 2016. Maureen Martin is the candidate of the evangelical Christian Peoples Alliance, which finished last here in 2015 and 2017; in May she stood for election to Lewisham council in Lee Green ward, coming last out of eleven candidates.

This being a London parliamentary by-election, there are an awful lot of other also-rans. First alphabetically is Charles Carey, an independent standing on a single issue of free, comprehensive and up-to-date access to legislation. Massimo DiMambro is standing for the UKIP splinter Democrats and Veterans Party; he was UKIP candidate for Lewisham Deptford in the 2015 general election, and contested Downham ward in the 2018 Lewisham local elections, coming last out of fifteen candidates. Sean Finch is standing for the Libertarian Party, Patrick Gray for the Radical Party, Thomas Hall for the Young People’s Party and Howling Laud Hope for the Official Monster Raving Loong Party. Possibly more serious about their candidature is Mandu Reid of the Women’s Equality Party. Completing the fourteen-strong ballot paper – and that’s already an improvement on May’s local elections, in which she messed up her nomination and wasn’t on the ballot for her home Basildon council – is Anne Marie Waters of her For Britain party, which I shall charitably describe as another UKIP splinter. Waters was the UKIP candidate for this seat in 2015, finishing in third place.

Despite the media coverage given to Lewisham East, overall this looks like one of those polls that’s strictly for the purists, with little to get excited about for the casual observer. And yet there are two local polls today which you’ve heard nothing about in the media but which look on paper far more interesting. Turn to the next section and I’ll give you the lowdown…

Lewisham council wards: Blackheath, Catford South, Downham, Grove Park, Lee Green, Rushey Green, Whitefoot
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: BR1, SE3, SE6, SE9, SE10, SE12, SE13

Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah (Grn)
Ross Archer (C)
Charles Carey (Ind)
Janet Daby (Lab)
Massimo DiMambro (Democrats and Veterans Party)
Sean Finch (Libertarian Party)
Patrick Gray (Radical Party)
Thomas Hall (Young People’s Party)
Howling Laud Hope (Loony)
David Kurten (UKIP)
Maureen Martin (CPA)
Mandu Reid (Women’s Equality Party)
Lucy Salek (LD)
Anne Marie Waters (For Britain)

June 2017 result Lab 32072 C 10859 LD 2086 Grn 803 UKIP 798 Ind 355 CPA 228
May 2015 result Lab 23907 C 9574 UKIP 3886 LD 2455 Grn 2429 Lewisham People Before Profit 390 CPA 282
May 2010 result Lab 17966 LD 11750 C 9850 UKIP 771 Grn 624 EDP 426 Lewisham People Before Profit 332

LE2018: the results

Beam me up, Scotty!

Reviewing the 2018 Greater Manchester local elections

Reviewing the 2018 Greater Manchester local elections

by Andrew Teale, 06 May 2018

“All the right votes, but not necessarily in the right order”

Last week I previewed the local elections in Greater Manchester. As there are no local by-elections this week for me to preview, let’s instead see how those predictions stacked up to reality…


Well, I was right to start with the Greatest Town in the Known Universe, which almost turned into the shock of this year’s electoral cycle. At the start of this year Bolton Labour had 37 out of 60 councillors and an overall majority of 14: they lost a seat to the Conservatives at a by-election in January, lost a seat to Farnworth and Kearsley First at a by-election in March, and lost five more seats in last week’s local elections. Only a gain from UKIP in my own Little Lever and Darcy Lever saved the Labour majority – and the result there was a three-way marginal, 37.5% for Labour to 30% for the Conservatives and 28% for the outgoing UKIP councillor.

What explains these losses? Well, the main point to bring away is that the Labour administration is unpopular. Very unpopular. As I’ve been banging on about in this column for several years, the town centre is part-empty, depressed, decaying, embarrassing. Your columnist has recently started a new job in Sale, and the difference between Sale and Bolton town centres – from the quality of the shops right down to the way people dress – is stark. Bolton town centre simply has not kept pace with the times or with its neighbours, and when the borough council recently presented a masterplan for improving it the general reaction from my friends was “how badly are they going to screw this up”? We’ve heard it all before, and all we have to show for those previous ambitions is demolished and unfilled spaces around the bottom end of Bradshawgate – a nice welcome for all the people travelling in from the south by road – and half the large shop units in the town centre lying empty. Alright, there’s a nice new bus station, but it’s smaller than the previous one and who in their right mind is going to pay bus fares they can’t afford to come to a town centre that’s not worth visiting? And that’s before I get onto the scandals: I’ve mentioned the Asons Solicitors case in this column previously, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. What about the Section 106 money for Farnworth, the Albert Halls redevelopment, the Smithills Coaching House affair? That last one alone probably should have brought to an ignominious end the political career of Cliff Morris, then leader of the council, but instead he was allowed to continue until retiring of his own accord at the end of last year. Morris may be gone, but the stench surrounding the Bolton Labour administration he led has yet to dissipate.

The swings in this Bolton election were wild, but it’s clear from the detail that Labour were caught in a pincer movement with an awful lot of anti-Labour tactical voting. Different parties gained in different wards.

I’ll start in the south of the borough in the towns of Farnworth and Kearsley. Labour are clearly in serious trouble here with the emergence of the localist party Farnworth and Kearsley First, which showed promise by winning the Farnworth by-election in March. I had suspected that Farnworth was possibly not the strongest ward for FKF and tipped gains for them in both Farnworth and Kearsley wards. Those gains came through and weren’t particularly close: FKF also performed well in the other ward they contested, Harper Green, but were stymied by the fact that only half of that ward is actually in Farnworth.

In Little Lever and the white working-class wards of eastern Bolton it was the Conservatives who gained. This fits into the national trend (London, you don’t count) of Brexit-related Tory gains at UKIP expense. Breightmet, which the Conservatives gained, is a council estate ward with a bad reputation, although I have to say I’ve never felt unsafe there. The Tories also surged into second place in Little Lever, while improving their vote in the safe Labour ward of Tonge with the Haulgh. Breightmet (first syllable rhymes with “freight”) and Tonge with the Haulgh (pronounced “Tongue with the Hoff”, make up your own jokes) are the sort of wards where the Tories need to perform well in order to gain the polarised Bolton North East constituency from Labour, and last week the Tories carried that constituency by 41% to 39%.

That Labour score of 39% was not helped by a collapse in Tory-held Astley Bridge, which I had tipped as a possible target for the party. Instead Labour surprisingly fell into a poor third with many of their voters going to the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems hadn’t taken the ward seriously before – three years ago they crawled just over 4% here – but now find themselves just six points behind the Conservatives. A full-on “winning here” assault can be expected for the 2019 Astley Bridge election – possibly to the chagrin of my sister, who is an elector in this ward and to put it mildly was not impressed with the Lib Dem candidate.

The west of the borough saw big gains in favour of whichever of the Tories and Lib Dems were best placed to beat Labour. Development issues are to the fore here, most controversially Peel Holdings’ plans for Hulton Park, which the council gave planning permission for just before the election. There’s also the redevelopment of the Horwich Loco Works site in Horwich and Blackrod ward, a project which hasn’t attracted too much opposition from the Conservatives but still clearly annoyed some Labour voters. Labour lost two of the three wards they were defending in this area: Westhoughton South where they were annihilated by the Lib Dems, and Horwich and Blackrod to the Conservatives. In the one Labour win in the constituency, Horwich North East, the party held off a Lib Dem resurgence by just 57 votes in the closest result of this year’s Bolton election. The bad news for Labour doesn’t end there: they failed to gain Hulton, were third behind the Lib Dems in their target ward of Westhoughton North, and (outside the borough, but in the Bolton West constituency) lost Atherton to an independent candidate. Again, Bolton West is a ward the Tories carried last week, with 34% to 30% for Labour and 26% for the Lib Dems.

So, what of the future? Labour have a majority of two on the new council, with 31 seats to 19 for the Conservatives, 3 for the Lib Dems who can also probably count on the vote of an ex-Lib Dem independent, and 3 each for UKIP, and Farnworth and Kearsley First. One net loss for Labour in 2019, or any by-election loss before then, and their majority is gone – and next year they are defending Breightmet, Farnworth, Horwich and Blackrod, Hulton, Kearsley and Westhoughton South, all of which voted for other parties last week. It has to be a racing certainty that the headlines on the morning of 3rd May 2019 will include “LABOUR LOSE BOLTON”. You read it here first. And that is the political legacy of one man – Cliff Morris.


Wigan was the other Greater Manchester borough which ensured a net Labour loss in councillors across the county. In this case there was a continuation of trends which had been apparent in 2016, when independent candidates and the Conservatives performed well. I’ve already mentioned Atherton, and independents also picked up Hindley Green and Bryn – campaigning for an aborted by-election in Bryn earlier this year, which was to have been an independent defence until the High Court called the poll off at the eleventh hour, may have had an effect there. Labour were also close to losing Hindley to an independent.

As I suggested in the preview the Conservatives gained Orrell, and also took Standish with Langtree from a Tory splinter group. That was an interesting result: the Wigan Independent Conservatives finished third, and Labour were only 15 votes behind the official Conservatives. The Wigan Independent Conservatives did however retain group status on the council by gaining Shevington with Lower Ground from Labour.

Overall Labour lost five seats to put them on 60 seats out of 75. The Conservatives now have seven councillors, independents have six and the Wigan Independent Conservatives have two.


I said in the preview that there were two wards to watch in Salford, Walkden South and Kersal. Walkden South did indeed turn into a Labour gain, and new Labour councillor Laura Edwards becomes, at 19, the youngest ever Labour councillor in the city. The headlines were however grabbed by the Tory gain of Kersal, the number 1 Jewish ward in the country. And the Conservative performance there was indeed impressive: 59.03% of the vote was their strongest result in Salford, even better than the traditional stronghold of Worsley. Those of you who read my preview of the 2017 by-election in Kersal (pages 66 to 68 of the Andrew’s Previews 2017 book, if you have it) will know that there’s a bit more going on there than just the Labour antisemitism stuff, although that certainly won’t have helped. There were strong independent challenges in the rather isolated towns of Irlam and Cadishead, although Labour held both those wards.

Labour actually made a net gain here, picking up Swinton South from a deselected former Labour councillor. They now control 50 of the 60 seats on the council, plus the mayoralty, to 9 Conservatives and 1 ex-Labour independent.


Bury is a borough with something for everyone, and that was the case in this election too. I mentioned the Labour antisemitism scandal in the last section, but that played out rather differently outside the Salford boundary. Labour held their own in Prestwich, coming out on the right side of another photofinish with the Lib Dems in St Mary’s ward and impressively holding Sedgley, which had been lost to the Conservatives two years ago. The local Conservatives are blaming candidate issues for that one. They did however comfortably regain the Whitefield ward of Pilkington Park from Labour; this is a strongly Jewish ward as well, but arguably should never have been Labour in the first place. I doubt that Bury’s ruling Labour group are too worried about that loss.

What should probably concern them is the Conservative gain in Radcliffe North. This is a polarised ward where your columnist lived for many years; a third of it is the affluent and strongly Conservative village of Ainsworth, with the other two-thirds being council estates off Turks Road in north-western Radcliffe. The council’s main contribution to Radcliffe in the last few years has been to, er, demolish the civic centre and swimming baths and close the town’s two secondary schools; the civic centre site is being redeveloped for housing, while the swimming baths has been replaced by a large open space which has proved a tempting target for travellers. The Tories can’t win Radcliffe North ward without a good performance on Turks Road, and their gain here feeds into the Brexit-related anti-council attitude which we saw just over the border in neighbouring wards of Bolton. Bury council had better get on with those plans for a new civic-cum-leisure centre in Radcliffe pronto.

As I suggested Labour performed better in the North constituency, holding Elton and gaining Ramsbottom from the Conservatives to limit their net losses to one. Those two wards look like promising Labour targets for the 2019 election. Labour now hold 31 out of 51 seats on the council, to 17 Conservatives and three Lib Dems.


Rochdale panned out very much as expected. Labour confirmed their defection gain from the Lib Dems in North Heywood, but lost Milnrow and Newhey to the party in the only change on the night. The closest result this year actually came in Castleton, where Labour held the Conservatives off by 41 votes; the Tories also now look within range of winning seats again in South Middleton, a ward which includes the relatively posh enclave of Alkrington. The Tories will however be concerned by their failure to make headway in Littleborough Lakeside, which they are defending next year.

Overall Labour now have 46 seats on the council to ten Conservatives, three Lib Dems and an ex-Labour independent.


In Oldham the story of the night belonged to the Saddleworth Conservatives, who completed their clean sweep in Saddleworth South (gaining it from the Lib Dems) and gained Saddleworth North from Labour. That’s the first time the Conservatives have ever won Saddleworth North ward, which was created in 2004 and traditionally votes Lib Dem. The party also did well in the Labour ward of Royton North which could be a promising target for the future. Labour did however make a net gain by picking up the two wards which voted UKIP four years ago.

That increases the Labour majority in Oldham: they now hold 47 seats to eight Lib Dems, four Conservatives and an independent.


In Tameside borough the two wards with split representation resolved themselves: Labour gained Ashton Hurst from the Conservatives but lost Hyde Werneth in return. The council remains at 51 Labour and six Conservatives. There were some good scores for localist parties in Mossley and Stalybridge which may be worth keeping an eye on for the future.


Stockport council remains hung with Labour as the largest party and likely to continue their minority administration. Labour pulled off the closest result of the night in Greater Manchester, gaining the safe Lib Dem ward of Cheadle Hulme North by a majority of just two votes. Labour also easily gained Manor from the Lib Dems, but Offerton was a surprisingly easy Lib Dem hold. The Lib Dems will be happy with that: although Offerton is Stockport proper it’s in the Hazel Grove constituency, which the Lib Dems would like back at some point.

Hazel Grove ward provided a Lib Dem gain from the Conservatives. The other four Tory-Lib Dem marginals were holds, and Bramhall South and Woodford now looks safe Conservative again. The Lib Dems comfortably regained their defection losses in Bredbury Green and Cheadle Hulme South to finish with a net gain of one councillor, the same gain as Labour.

Labour remain on 23 seats out of 63 for now, but that is likely to be boosted to 24 when the Edgeley and Cheadle Heath ward polls on 24th May. That election was postponed after the Tory candidate died during the campaign. The Lib Dems are on 21, the Tories have 14, the Heald Green Ratepayers have three and there are two ex-Lib Dem independents.

Next year is likely to be all about the Lib Dem-Tory marginals as none of the seven wards Labour are defending look in any danger. The Lib Dems will be hoping to hold their own and gain Bredbury Green, Hazel Grove and the two Marple wards from the Conservatives; if they achieve all that they will become the largest party on the council.


As predicted the only point of interest in Manchester, despite all 96 councillors being up for election, was in Didsbury West ward. Former Lib Dem MP John Leech was successfully re-elected to the council and got a running-mate in; Labour won one seat in that ward, which the Lib Dems will have their eye on gaining next year.

The new city council has 94 Labour councillors and two Lib Dems.


We finish this Greater Manchester review with the undisputed bright spot for Labour, the borough of Trafford. This was the one which grabbed the headlines with the loss of the only Tory metropolitan borough in the north of England, ending fifteen years of Conservative majority rule. In fact it was worse than that: the party made a net loss of five seats and are no longer even the largest party on the council.

As can be seen Labour swept all the wards north of the Mersey, gaining the marginal seats of Davyhulme East, Davyhulme West and Flixton to eliminate the Conservative majority. The surprises came in the Cheshire half of the borough. The Green Party won their first ever seats on Trafford council, gaining both seats up for election in the scandal-hit Altrincham ward. Even more surprising was the good Labour performance in Sale: they gained Brooklands ward for the first time ever, and were close to winning Ashton upon Mersey. Brooklands ward was visited by Theresa May during the campaign: that went well. The one bright spot for the Tories was that they gained Village ward from the Lib Dems.

Labour now are the largest party on Trafford council with 30 out of 63 seats; the Conservatives are on 29 with the Greens and Lib Dems on two seats each and holding the balance of power. Labour look favourites to take over the council leadership, and if current trends continue should gain a majority next year: they need two net gains for a council majority, and in 2019 the Conservatives will be defending five wards which Labour won this year.

So, the 10,000-piece jigsaw that is the British local electoral map has been redrawn again. Some misshapen pieces have been taken away and recut to size. Some pieces have been repainted in a completely new colour, others have changed hue in more subtle ways. Although there are slightly fewer individual red pieces in the Greater Manchester part of the jigsaw, overall Labour have increased their dominance of the county both at local and regional level: the loss of Trafford is likely to remove the only Conservative vote on the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, which is made up of the mayor and the ten council leaders.

At this point in time, the most likely outcome of the next local elections in 2019 is a Labour gain in Trafford but loss in Bolton – but there’s a lot of water to flow under the bridge before then. Over the next twelve months there will be many more opinion polls and no doubt plenty of local by-elections to analyse, as we psephological observers look for straws in the electoral wind to try and understand that great unknown – the thoughts of the Great British Public. So strap yourselves in and hold on tight for what’s likely to be another bumpy political year – and stay tuned to Britain Elects as we bring you all the electoral ripples, eddies and burbles as they happen.

Andrew Teale

LE2018: the results

Beam me up, Scotty!

Evening Briefing: the 2018 local elections

The 2018 local elections... what happened?

by Patrick English, 04 May 2018

In all, not all that much has changed despite expectations that Labour might make some significant gains overnight. That said, there have been a fair few changes of seats within councils. At the time of writing, Labour are around 60 seats up on their 2014 performance, the Liberal Democrats up by around 50, the Greens just about in the positive, the Conservatives around 10 below their 2014 result, and UKIP down by almost 125 – losing in nearly every seat they contested at this election (as indeed they did in 2017).

According to the BBC’s ‘projected national share’, if the contest were to be held UK-wide then both of the Conservatives and Labour would have been polling at 35%, the Liberal Democrats 16%, and the other parties on 14%. On 2014, this constitutes a rise of 6% of the Conservatives, 4% for Labour, and 3% for the Lib Dems. A small swing for the Conservatives on 2014 (though a small swing to Labour from the 2017 General Election) making it a complete dead heat.

Overall, a rather disappointing night for Labour saw them struggle to make big gains, and also saw them lose control of Derby and Nuneaton & Bedworth councils. They did pick up a large number of seats in the capital and won overall control of Plymouth and Kirklees, but were unable to flip any of their target London boroughs in Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, or Wandsworth, and missed out on taking overall control in North East Lincolnshire and Stockport. Labour did do very well in areas with significant amounts of young people (aged 18-34), with a rise of nearly 11% on 2014 recorded in the BBC ‘key wards’ where the young population was over 35% of all adults (according to the 2011 UK Census).

For the Conservatives, they will be disappointed to have lost control of Trafford and suffered a range of seat losses across London, but will be encouraged by results elsewhere in Peterborough, Great Yarmouth, Redditch, and Basildon where they gained control. According to the BBC key ward analysis, their main strength came in areas with high percentages of Leave voting, rising an average of 13 points in authorities voting to leave by 60% or more in the 2016 referendum, compared with just a 0.1% rise in areas with less than 20% Leave voting.

The Liberal Democrats did a bit better than expected, taking the Richmond-upon-Thames, South Cambridgeshire, and Kingston-upon-Thames councils from the Conservatives, and picking up seats in many areas across the country – particularly in Hull (nine in total there). The party performed especially well when it was competing in Conservative controlled councils, rising an average of around 5% in key authorities with majority-Conservative administrations (compared with around 1% in Labour-held councils). In many of these areas (including the above three councils) there was a substantial Remain vote in 2016.

For UKIP and the Greens, it was a tale of contrasting fortunes as they officially traded 4th and 5th places in English politics (in terms of seats). UKIP lost in every single contest they competed in bar three. Surprisingly, in one of these victories they unseated the Labour leader of Derby Council. The Greens have reasons to be cheerful in mounting a decent defence of what was a strong 2014 result for the party. They also made gains in places such as Trafford, Worcester, and across London. They were down substantially however in Norwich – a council where they have been losing seats for quite some time now having previously built a stronghold there.

To the local issued raised in my blog before the elections. In Sheffield, the trees saga played out exactly how many expected it to with the Labour administration losing five of its councillors to anti-felling candidates in the centre and west of the city. The Greens gained two seats (on top of defending their Nether Edge and Sharrow seat of Alison Teal) while the Liberal Democrats picked up three. Labour won a seat from UKIP, meaning their majority was cut by eight seats. A clear message was sent by many voters in the city regarding their dissatisfaction with the council’s tree felling priorities.

Meanwhile in Kensington and Chelsea, very few seats changed hands. Labour were up by around 7% across the borough and turnout surged by 6%, but there was only one gain for the Labour Party as they took the second seat in St. Helen’s – just over the road from Grenfell – by a comfortable margin. A small Grenfell effect then perhaps, but nothing at all seismic.

The impact of the anti-Semitism row on the contests in Barnet and Bury produced some striking results. In Pilkington Park in Bury – the ultra-marginal ward with almost 25% Jewish population – the Conservatives won the seat from Labour with a 10% swing. They also saw a vote surge in Sedgley – where there is a 33% Jewish population – amounting to a 6% swing. In Salford, the Conservatives took the Kersal ward – over 40% Jewish – from Labour on a big swing. In Barnet, Labour failed to make advances in crucial marginal wards such as Hale – with around 20% Jewish population – and West Hendon – around 10% Jewish population – which ultimately cost them control of the council. In terms of any fallout from Windrush, we did see boroughs with high density Black voters – and particularly Black Caribbean voters – tending to break heavily toward Labour, swinging away from the Conservatives. On average where there were 5% of more of the population from such backgrounds according to the 2011 census, Labour were up by nearly 10 points and the Conservatives just by 1.

Finally, in Swindon Labour were (as with many other targets) not in the end able to take the council. There was no evidence however of the voter identification trial supressing turnout; in fact, turnout was up overall by four points, which contrasts to no real overall rise in turnout on average across the country.

In all, this was ultimately a frustrating night for Labour considering their previously lofty ambitions and bold targets prior to the event. They quite clearly still have some convincing to do – particularly outside of London – that they are indeed a government in waiting. For the Conservatives, this was a much better night that was previously anticipated. For the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, there was cause for quiet and cautious optimism, while for UKIP the electoral wipe-out writing is all over the walls. And from Sheffield to Barnet there were fascinating local stories in play which added to the interest and showed once again how important neighbourhood factors can be in council elections.

LE2018: the results

Beam me up, Scotty!

Local authorities to keep an eye on for election night

Authorities to keep an eye on

by Ben Walker, 03 May 2018

Today polls across London and much of urban England open in what looks set to be an interesting smorgasburg of local elections. Patrick English has taken a look at Sheffield, Kensington & Chelsea, Barnet, Bury and Swindon for Britain Elects, and Andrew Teale has previewed the mayoral elections and locals in Greater Manchester.

Below I’ve taken a look at a number of authorities worth keeping an eye on as the night progresses.


2014: Con 30.3%; Lab 30.8%; LDem 0.9%; UKIP 31.1%
Seats up: Con 9; Lab 7; UKIP 3

Labour is no stranger to having a majority in Plymouth. Conservative until 2012 and Labour until 2015, the city went hung and then came back to the Tories with the defection of three UKIP councillors. Labour are hopeful of taking back control through the three seats they lost to UKIP in 2014, and what with being behind in all of them by a few hundred votes, a Labour gain in Plymouth seems almost certain.

The Tories, like UKIP, also seem to be the ones at risk of falling back this year, with Budshead ward, a seat won from Labour in 2014 thanks to what appears to have been vote splitting by the purples (Con 35%; Lab 31%; UKIP 32%), also at risk of being repainted red.


2014: Con 29.1%; Lab 32.1%; LDem 0.9%; UKIP 32.4%
Seats up: Con 7; Lab 7; UKIP 10

The Conservatives performed admirably in both Dudley constituencies last year, boosting their vote share in June by 16pts in the north (Lab held) and 13pts in the south (Con held). With seven UKIP seats at threat of being lost (though I understand they still have a very active operation in the borough) and a history of the Tories being serious competitors, notably topping the poll every time the council went to the electorate in the previous decade, it’s understandable the blues are bullish about becoming the largest party here, if not taking overall control. Though they technically already govern the authority with tacit support from the Kippers, this is one to keep an eye on.

It should also be worth keeping a a lookout for the performance of the now suspended Conservative candidate for Cradley & Wollescote ward…


2014: Con 22.7%; Lab 43.7%; LDem 14.7%; UKIP 13.6%; Grn 3.4%
Seats up: Con 29; Lab 80; LDem 10; Ind 1

Though playing host to a Conservative mayor for the West Midlands region, Birmingham is unlikely to see much headway by the Tories this year. The success of said mayor more so appears to have been a consequence of personality politics, a Labour party sitting at 25 per cent in the polls nationally and UKIP votes from the Black Country. A poor performance by the Tories in the city last June put paid to the idea of Birmingham being fertile ground outside Sutton Coldfield.

Following boundary changes, 101 seats are up for grabs and Conservative losses appear probable. It is understood the leader of their group, representing a ward in Erdington, is in for the fight of his political life. I hear Tory activists too are worried about their seats in Edgbaston and Northfield. Labour hegemony will likely continue.


2014: Con 38.8; Lab 38.2; LDem 7.8; UKIP 5.9; Grn 9.2
Seats up: Con 12; Lab 9; LDem 1

On paper Trafford should be an easy win for Labour but the Tories have a history of over-performing in local elections here. Altrincham and Sale West, the constituency which covers much of the borough, is one of the rare 28 seats in Britain to have seen the Tories suffer a fall in vote share last June.

The two seats which represent the Davyhulme area, generally reliably Conservative, are understood to be both at risk and a target of Labour’s. With only a majority of two, the Tories shouldn’t be surprised at losing control of this borough, though do stay up to see whether they will have as bad a night as losing largest party status to Labour…


2014: Con 23.2; Lab 29.2; LDem 26.1; UKIP 13.3; Grn 4.2
Seats up: Con 4, Lab 7, LDem 9; Ind 1

No party will attain a majority in Stockport so long as the authority remains split three ways, and there is no impression of any party at risk of losing — or gaining — much ground. Labour are competitive in Offerton ward, particularly with the Lib Dem incumbent standing down, but unless there’s a seismic loss of support for either the yellows or blues, little will change: Labour will continue to govern as a minority.


2014: Con 26.9; Lab 38.5; LDem 12.5; UKIP 4.5; Grn 11.8
Seats up: Con 7; Lab 10; LDem 5; Grn 1; Ind 1



2014: Con 30.1; Lab 33.0; LDem 12.4; UKIP 11.1; Grn 6.9
Seats up: Con 6; Lab 9; LDem 1; Ind 1

Both authorities are worth watching out for as a barometer of the parties’ performances in the towns of the north, that being Halifax, Dewsbury, Batley and Huddersfield. The Tories are understood to be putting resources into their Calderdale operation but writing off Kirklees; and Labour, following a very poor showing in Calderdale in 2016, are also bullish of making gains. Labour, needing only a net gain of one, seem pretty confident about taking control of Kirklees.

Great Yarmouth

In 2014 UKIP all but swept Great Yarmouth, taking ten seats and leaving the Conservatives to sneak by with two and Labour one. The vote splits had UKIP 41%, Lab 29%, Con 27%.

This year, what with there being little chance of the purples holding the line, we will likely see the Tories consolidate their position as the majority party on the authority. The borough’s constituency MP Brandon Lewis last year saw his vote improve 11pts on 2015, with UKIP’s falling 17pts and Labour’s up 7pts.


2014: Con 35.0; Lab 20.8; LDem 4.7; UKIP 39.0
Seats up: Con 5; UKIP 10

Basildon stands as one of the few last UKIP strongholds in Britain… or, rather, it was one of the few UKIP strongholds.

The party suffered collapse in the area during the Essex county contests of last year, and there’s yet to be any indication today shan’t be a repeat. What is worth keeping a look-out for however is where UKIP’s votes will go. Basildon once played the part of bellwether constituency in general elections, but now the two seats which represent the town are held by Conservative MPs with majorities north of 20pts, and until 2014 Basildon saw Labour make inroads, with the party in 2012 netting four of 15 seats up for contest.


2014: Con 28.2; Lab 30.0; LDem 2.5; UKIP 39.0
Seats up: Con 5, Lab 6, UKIP 5

Thurrock, on the other hand, down the road on the way to London, is forever a marginal constituency. Another one of UKIP’s former strongholds, it recently saw witness to the local party recently going rogue during the Henry Bolton days and standing as independents.

Conservative (re)gains from UKIP are more likely than Labour gains here, but nothing should be ruled out. With the ‘Thurrock Independents’ throwing a spanner into the works and an ever changing electorate, your guess is as good as mine.

Kingston upon Thames

2014: Con 33.9; Lab 15.8; LDem 26.8; UKIP 11.4; Grn 10.6
Seats up: Con 28; Lab 2; LDem 18

An impressive comeback for the Liberal Democrats last year in Richmond Park and Kingston & Surbiton suggests the party pipping control from the Tories this year is a near certainty. An ever existing Lib Dem local presence in the area and an anti-Brexit backlash from 2015 Tory voters appears to be what’s driving the fightback for the yellows here.

As to how much of a win for the Lib Dems Kingston will give is yet to be seen, but some campaigners on the ground tell me the Tories are on course to lose up to 20 of their 28 seats. I’ll… wait for the results.


2014: Con 41.0%; Lab 33.5%; LDem 6.3%; UKIP 3.9%; Grn 13.5%
Seats up: Con 44; Lab 16


I think it’s a… fair assertion to say that much of the media and ‘online activist’ focus recently has been on the prospect of Labour taking Westminster City Council, an authority that since its creation in 1964 has stayed stoically Conservative.

Labour gains are likely, but to my eye only seem to be guaranteed in the northern half of the authority (such potential already proven by the reds turning Westminster North into a safe seat last June). This wouldn’t be enough to see them take control, however…

As has been attested in previous years in previous contests, the overbearing presence of the personal votes of incumbent councillors impact and often blunt or exaggerate anticipated swings. The Tory councillors in Westminster have proven themselves to outperform their parliamentary equivalents, notionally ‘topping/winning’ that same Westminster North parliamentary area in 2014, and so expected uniform swings to Labour (as the first YouGov poll for the Mile End Institute had suggested) might not be as forthcoming as some may so wish.

The incumbency bonus, however, may not be much of a card available to the Tories this year, for 14 of their 44 councillors will not be contesting their seats, making the route for a Labour win easier, but still in no way certain.

Westminster is one to watch. For Labour to win Westminster will be a symbolic mark on the changing politics of London, be they for reasons of demographics, Brexit, or otherwise.


2014: Con 39.8%; Lab 32.2%; LDem 7.7%; UKIP 5.7%; Grn 12.6%
Seats up: Con 41, Lab 19

Labour needs to make 12 gains from the Tories to take overall control of Wandsworth. Inner London polling puts the borough on a knife-edge of going red, and both Labour and Tory sources tell me the same, that too many wards are too close to call.

For Labour to net the 12 gains needed requires a swing of close to 10pts. The most recent YouGov voting intention has the inner London swing to Labour at around 8pts.

If London voted the same way as it did in the general election, with the same turnout from the same set of demographics, then Wandsworth would most likely go Labour — as would Westminster and Barnet, but this isn’t a general election and turnout across the English authorities is anticipated to be half that of the GE. To give the cop out answer, whichever party turns out their vote best is the party which will win Wandsworth.

Britain Elects will be with you throughout the night covering the results as they come in. Be sure to keep an eye on our vote and seat tracker for the ward-by-ward results (assuming the website doesn’t break again). See you on the other side.

Trees, Grenfell, Anti-Semitism, Windrush, and Voter IDs – All About the Locals

Trees, Grenfell, Anti-Semitism, Windrush, and Voter IDs – All About the Locals

by Patrick English, 30 April 2018

3rd May will see the first England-wide test of voter support for the country’s political parties since the General Election last June. Voters will head to the polls to elect councillors up and down the country, and in six of those areas there will also be mayoral elections. Though the general stories of Labour doing well in cities (particularly London) and with young voters and the Conservatives strengthening their grip on many pro-Brexit heartlands in the North and Midlands will most likely continue, there are many individual contests and battlegrounds with their own unique stories and nuances which may well buck – or exacerbate – the overall trends.

The General Story
Both the Conservatives and Labour look set to be up in terms of vote share on 2014. But while Labour are expected to make a fair amount of seat gains, the Conservatives look set to fall back. Recent polling over the last few days however suggests that the Labour gains may not be so large was anticipated perhaps a couple of weeks ago. Furthermore, though gains do seem likely, Labour might struggle to make a huge impact in terms of taking control (or removing opposition majority control) of local authorities this time around. As Professor Rob Ford pointed out on Saturday, many of the areas up for grabs on Thursday are already dominated by Labour councillors. They are also re-contesting a strong set of results produced by Ed Miliband’s Labour Party in 2014.

That said, there are a few places in which, if Labour are indeed having a good night, they can expect to move into the driving seat and would have cause to celebrate. They will be keeping a close eye on London where, after a strong General Election performance last year, they have some highly ambitious targets – including taking the Conservative controlled boroughs of Wandsworth and Westminster. There may well be further success for the party in other Councils such as Amber Valley, Plymouth, and perhaps North East Lincolnshire and Newcastle-Under-Lyme.

The Conservatives seem set for a quietly disappointing showing, but given the current political climate (and the usual painful nature of local election nights for governing parties) they may be fairly happy with a result of anything around 100 seat losses. They might, if they are able to continue their strong pickup of ex-UKIP voters, even have something to cheer about in places such as Thurrock, Basildon, and Great Yarmouth (seeking overall control in each).

According to forecasts, the Liberal Democrats are expected to, once again, have a frustrating night and make only a handful of limited advances. The may be looking to Maidstone (seeking overall control) and Stockport (seeking to displace Labour) for some good news. London may provide some further encouragement, with the prospect of regaining substantial ground in Richmond (where they were pipped to the post in 2017 by the born-again-Conservative Zac Goldsmith) and Kingston upon Thames on the cards.

UKIP look set for another terrible night. They will, after a rapid two-year decline, fall behind the Greens in terms of council seats in England on Thursday; all but a dreadfully poor night for the Greens, which is not expected, should see them cement 4th place on the English local representation leader board.

Away from the general patterns, there are four stories worth picking out where local factors and controversies could provide some very interesting results and trends.

Trees in Sheffield

Sheffield City Council: Labour control, 30 seat majority, 28 seats up.

Firstly, a significant test of the extent to which voters ‘think local’ in council elections when a scandal is unfolding and ongoing around them. The Labour Administration in Sheffield is currently under huge amounts of scrutiny over their ongoing controversial tree felling programme. Such has been the strength of opposition and controversy that the events have hit national and international headlines. In 2012 the Council contracted a private company, Amey, to cut down over half of the city’s 36,000 trees over a 25-year period as part of a ‘highways improvement’ programme worth £2.2 billion. Needless to say, this has not gone down well with many of the local residents from a city which prides itself on its green credentials. Rallies and marches against the destruction of health street trees have attracted thousands of residents, young and old, and the support of some very high-profile supporters – including Michael Gove, Chris Packham, and Jarvis Cocker.

Opposition parties – namely the Liberal Democrats and Greens – will be seeking to capitalise on local anger and frustration. Intriguingly, in six wards their campaigns will be assisted by a non-partisan campaigning group which was founded this year with the specific aim of putting boots on the ground to unseat Labour incumbents in marginal wards – the “It’s Our City” campaign. Equally, the non-partisan “Sheffield Trees Action Groups” (or STAG) campaign, over 10,000 members strong, are also actively supporting the removal of the current Administration. Labour are mounting a total of 19 defences in Sheffield, meaning that they could theoretically lose control of the council in the face of this widespread opposition. This is however very unlikely, with Labour defending some very friendly (as well as some not so friendly) seats.

A further layer of interest in Sheffield comes from the sole Green seat being defended this year in the city. The current incumbent there is Councillor Alison Teal – one of four Greens on the council. Cllr Teal has a majority of just eight votes, and has been right at the heart of the tree campaign – as well as one of its most vocal critics, she was arrested and then taken to court by her own Council for protesting against a tree felling in her ward (Nether Edge and Sharrow). She was subsequently cleared of any and all wrongdoing. Nether Edge has been the centre of many of the most intense and controversial episodes of the tree felling saga, and so results in Cllr Teal’s leafy city-centre seat as well as other tree felling flash-points of Broomhill and Sharrow Vale, Ecclesall, Gleadless Valley, and the Crookes and Crosspool and Dore and Totley wards (both at the heart of Jared O’Mara’s Sheffield Hallam constituency) will definitely be worth keeping an eye on for an anti-Labour backlash in a city which turned all red only last year.

Grenfell Tower Fallout in Kensington and Chelsea

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea: Conservative control, 24 seat majority, all seats up.

The story here is of course the political fallout from the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire. With the Public Inquiry ongoing, former Kensington and Chelsea Council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown has already quit and the huge amount of anger, frustration, and shame felt by many residents toward their local leaders is expected to make it a tough night for many Conservatives defending their seats. Indeed, Jeremy Corbyn has made clear his ambition to take the Council away from the Conservatives. That would require them to overturn a 24-seat majority.

Unlikely as that seems, as with the rest of London all of Kensington and Chelsea Council’s seats (50) are up for election, which does increase the possibility of a change of overall control. Furthermore, Labour did pull of quite the shock and take the Kensington constituency from the Conservatives, by a margin of 20 votes, in 2017.

Taking the council may be much more difficult however; by and large, there were not that many wards where Labour were all that close to the Conservatives in 2016, particularly towards the Thames in the South of the borough. Grenfell Tower sits in the Notting Dale ward, where Labour already hold all three council seats by a healthy margin over the Conservatives. Neighbouring wards may though provide the best opportunity for Labour to work toward reducing the Conservative majority. To the north is St. Helen’s ward, where the two parties were neck and neck in 2016 – taking one seat each. That one Conservative seat just over the road from Grenfell would be an obvious first target. Meanwhile, to the South the Conservatives comfortably won both seats in the Norland ward in 2016 but might find themselves in trouble there too if voter anger spills over. Elsewhere, less than 25% swings – not unthinkable given the circumstances – would be required in Chelsea Riverside, Earl’s Court, Pembridge, and Holland in order for Labour to take a potential 10 further seats. If Labour took every Conservative seat in each of the above six wards, they would indeed take control of the Council. Stranger things have happened.

Jewish Populations Barnet and Bury

Borough of Barnet Council: Conservative control, 2 seat majority, 21 seats up

Borough of Bury Council: Labour control, 8 seat majority, 17 seats up

Labour may well perform substantially under-par on Thursday in Councils such as Barnet and Bury where a number of wards are home to substantial Jewish populations. In fact, the damage and rift caused between Labour and many parts of the Jewish community as the anti-Semitism row continues could cost the party control of Barnet, where a two-seat gain would see them replace the ruling Conservative administration. Taking marginal wards such as Childs Hill and Hale could be crucial to Labour taking overall control, but the seats’ substantial Jewish populations (around 20% according to the 2011 Census) may well stop Labour doing so if the backlash is significant enough.

In Bury, Labour are already in fairly strong control of the council and are defending in some very strong Labour areas. The impact of a reaction to the anti-Semitism row therefore may not be so consequential here. That said, look out for wards such as the ultra-marginal Pilkington Park (Labour less than 1% ahead in 2014, approximately 25% Jewish) and the much more safer seats of Sedgley (approximately one-third Jewish) and St. Mary’s (around 10% Jewish) as potential backlash lightning rods. Relatedly, though Labour are generally already well in control of areas with substantial ethnic minority voter populations, in the wake of the Windrush scandal – which only yesterday claimed the scalp of the Home Secretary – the Conservatives may see below-par performances even by their expected London standards in high-density black voter boroughs such as Lambeth and Lewisham.

Voter ID in Swindon

Swindon Borough Council: Conservative control, 4 seat majority, 19 seats up

Swindon is one of the five areas in which a pilot voter identification scheme will be taking place on Thursday. What makes Swindon stand out is that it is very much a Labour target, and they need only four additional seats to take it (two to become the largest party). It will be interesting to see if turnout is significant affected by the trial, and how many stories come out of registered voters being turned away from polling stations due to a lack of suitable identification. With control of the council in the balance and Labour, then this pilot and its timing could create some controversy if it goes badly. Keep an eye out for results and turnout stories coming in from the Covingham & Dorcan, Haydon Wick, Lydiard & Freshbrook, and Shaw wards, where Labour stand a good chance of making the gains necessary to take control of the Council.

The 2018 local elections, a briefer

The 2018 local elections, a briefer

by Ben Walker, 29 Apr 2018

On May 3rd 160 local authorities will see electoral contests of sorts, be they lone council by-elections or the entire authority going to the polls. Britain Elects number crunching* has found 4,425 seats will be up for grabs, 40 per cent (1,833) of which are in London. Much of England’s cities and urban areas will be going to the polls this Thursday.

Labour will be defending the lion’s share of seats this year, given the large proportion of authorities being metropolitan boroughs, at 2,300; the Conservatives will be defending 1,416; and the Liberal Democrats 473.

UKIP, following their high-point in 2014, and now facing annihilation, are defending 136; and the Greens are defending 32.

My expectation of this year’s set of elections is that anything other than a repeat of the most recent general election will be a surprise. Polling has consistently shown the Tories and Labour to be almost always within a point or two of each other and forever within the error margin of their performance in June of last year. Recent council by-elections, too, have generally shown constituencies that swung either Labour or Tory in 2017 have stuck to swinging so in council contests.

This does not mean there will be no change to the control or composition of the authorities up. Almost all of the seats up this year were last up in 2014: a year when UKIP were polling in the high-teens; Labour and the Tories were dogfighting over 33 per cent in the polls; Amber Valley was a marginal constituency and Westminster a safe Tory borough— today, UKIP are down to three per cent, the big two are fighting over 41 per cent, Amber Valley is a safe Tory seat and Westminster a Labour target.

The increase in support for the big two and the growing divide between English politics and London politics makes this year’s local elections interesting albeit an increasingly difficult one to analyse. In the 2017 locals every English authority saw a swing to the Tories; this year will be no repeat. Authorities including but not limited to Amber Valley, Great Yarmouth and Thurrock will, I expect, with the latter two as a consequence of a declining UKIP, see swings to the Tories; while councils such as Trafford, Lincoln and Plymouth will swing to Labour.

The focus from commentators and readers on London is understandable, though mistaken. London was the only region across Britain to see the Tories lose vote share in 2017, and marginal authorities such as Plymouth, Amber Valley, Thurrock, Kirklees, Peterborough, Walsall, and Trafford have more to say in where the parties might be nationally, and whether votes have shifted enough to set either one on course for a majority in parliament, than, say, whether Labour can win Westminster City Council, symbolic though it may be!

Polls will be open this Thursday from 7am to 10pm with most metropolitan authorities counting throughout the night. Britain Elects will be on hand to provide ward-by-ward results as they come in with commentary following the event summarising what’s happened and what it might mean.

*Long nights spent drowning amongst the company of spreadsheets.

The charts that explain 2017

The Charts That Tell 2017

The Charts That Tell 2017

A once apathetic generation mobilised and a government now without a majority: here are the charts that explain Britain’s 2017.

by Ben Walker, 04 January 2017

Labour started the year 12pts behind and ended it 2pts ahead

You’d be forgiven for thinking there was no hope of a turnaround in Labour fortunes at the start of 2017. Up until April there was minor change in the twelve point lead enjoyed by the Tories and only after the u-turn on social care during the general election campaign did the blues start shedding support, losing all that was gained after the snap poll was announced.

Labour experienced a short period of ‘honeymoon’ in the aftermath of the general election, leading the Tories by four points through June and then retreating to an average of two points by the end of the year.

There’s been yet no noticeable change in support for the other parties: UKIP crashed following the election announcement and the Lib Dems and Greens have seen little traction with the public. Talk of a #LibDemFightback are at present reserved for council by-elections and shoots of a #GreenSurge have yet to materialise.

Though Labour has a lead, all parties are within the margin of error of what was attained in June. If an election were held tomorrow it shouldn’t be a surprise if little changed with some Conservative-DUP arrangement continuing. Labour needs to average three or more points to be assured of a lead, and around six to attain an outright majority.

The number of Britons who want Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister has doubled

More Britons still prefer Theresa May as Prime Minister over Jeremy Corbyn, but the numbers today are a far cry from what they were a year ago, when close to half of Britons were of that opinion compared to 37 per cent now.

Jeremy Corbyn has seen the numbers wanting him in Number 10 almost double, from 16 per cent at the end of 2016 to 31 per cent now.

Young people now like voting

Turnout among older voters has always been consistently high, and only since the EU referendum have young people fancied voting in great numbers too. Whether or not 18-24 year olds came out for Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour party, an opposition to Brexit or even simply as a consequence of an engaging campaign during the referendum is yet to be seen, but the 2017 election has, probably, solidified their presence as a newly engaged demographic that parties will have to respond to.

Small shift towards those thinking Brexit to be the wrong decision

Over the course of 2017 YouGov asked the public 37 times whether they thought the vote to leave the EU was the right or wrong decision, and of the 23 asked in the run up to the general election, 16 had a plurality agreeing it was right. Of the 14 taken following the election, just one said it was right.

Though the most recent YouGov has a plurality believing Brexit to be the wrong decision, and though more on average opine such since June, this is mostly margin of error stuff. The latest puts it at 45-42, and 29 of the 37 polls taken this year have given leads for either side of 3pts or less.

It can’t be said that the country is seriously changing its mind on the issue, or whatever sensational headline can be (and has been) thought up. The country by and large still wants Britain’s departure to go ahead, but there has been some recent evidence to suggest that support for a referendum on the Brexit deal is substantial, although the figures given are mixed. Survation have it at 50%, YouGov at 33% (note the similar question wording) and ICM 32%.

Public opinion on the Brexit negotiations have been broadly disapproving with only a breather of approval given to the government in the run-up to the triggering of Article 50 and during the general election campaign. ORB’s series put disapproval at a record high of 66% in November.

Snap poll: public don't hate the budget

Tories can breathe a sigh of relief, the public don't hate the budget

Most budgets usually receive a flurry of polls in the days following the Chancellor’s statement, attempting to discern a public response, but so far we’ve only had one. The YouGov poll for the Times newspaper, surveyed between the Wednesday and Thursday of the week, found a plurality of voters (34%) thought the budget to be fair, 23% for it to be not fair and 43% didn’t know.

A majority of voters do not think the budget will affect the country in any positive or negative way, with 53% saying it’ll leave the country no different, just 11% better off and 19% worse off.

The Chancellor’s ratings, though poor before the budget, and still poor after, have improved a smidgeon. The number thinking he is doing a good job has increased 5pts to 20%, and the number saying he is doing a bad job sits at 32%, down 3pts on the previous poll (19 – 20 Nov).

Though an overwhelming majority of Britons don’t have an opinion when it comes to preference for Chancellor, he leads Labour’s John McDonnell by 10pts, at 23% to 13%.

When it comes to government cuts, the public are split , with 34% of Britons saying the way the government is cutting spending to reduce the deficit is good for the economy, 35% say it’s bad, and 31% are unsure. Only 24% however say it is being done fairly. 41% in the meantime say it is being done unfairly.

In March YouGov asked the public whether government cuts were having an impact on their lives, and 34% at the time said so. Now that figure is down to 29%.

The public were asked which party would be better at tackling a number of issues. When it comes to helping people get onto the housing ladder, the public split 29%/26% in favour of a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn over a Conservative one led by Theresa May. It should be noted that the party leaders’ names were prompted for these questions.

Ask the public on which is best to manage the economy and the Tories take the lead with 37% and 21% for Labour.

When it comes to providing more jobs, both parties are tied, at 29% apiece; ditto on keeping prices down (25% Con, 24% Lab); but not so for improving living standards. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour lead the Tories by 7pts here, at 33% to 26%.