6 May 2022 | NEWS
Results are coming in today following the local elections vote that took place yesterday.
Labour have been seen to make important gains in London, with the Tories losing historic strongholds.
The boroughs of Wandsworth and Westminster had been controlled by the Conservatives since 1978 and 1964 respectively, whilst the borough of Barnet is in Labour control for the first time since its inception.
Liberal Democrats have seen the biggest gains so far, with a net increase of 66 council seats that included seizing Hull Council from the Labour Party.
The capture of the borough of Barnet is being seen as a redemption for Labour in their plight to win back favour with Jewish voters, following accusations of anti-Semitism within the party under the previous leadership.
However, when broken down by ward, the areas with the greatest populations of Jewish people, such as Golders Green and Hendon, voted for Tory councillors.
Labour also saw other gains in the south, including seizing Southampton Council from Conservative control.
Although the Tories saw symbolic defeats in London, those loses were not replicated across the country, with Labour failing to capture the lost Red Wall areas in the north.
Bolton Council saw the Conservatives maintain control and they even picked up a seat in Wirral Council.
On the failure of to win back parts of the Red Wall, polling expert Professor John Curtice said: “Outside of London, as compared to 2018 when these seats were last contested, it looks like their seats are down slightly.
“And for a party that is trying to regain ground in the so-called Red Wall seats in the Midlands and north of England, this wasn’t quite the progress they wanted.
“There is still a very substantial legacy of the impact of Brexit on both the character of the Conservative and Labour supporters.
“The Conservatives are still much stronger in Leave areas, and therefore Labour is still struggling to make more progress there.”
On the Labour Party’s performance, the polling expert said: “This is certainly not a local election performance that in any sense indicates a party that is on course for winning a General Election with an overall majority.
“Indeed, I’m not sure whether we could even say that at this point it’s guaranteed or necessarily on course even to be the largest party in the next Parliament.”
Reacting to the results, Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed it had been a “tough night” for the Conservatives.
He said: “It is mid-term. It’s certainly a mixed set of results.
“We had a tough night in some parts of the country, but on the other hand, in other parts of the country you are still seeing Conservatives going forward and making quite remarkable gains in places that haven’t voted Conservative for a long time, if ever.”
Johnson also placed the blame on the Covid aftershock and interpreted the results to be a sign that the Government must focus on the “big issues”.
He stated: “The big lesson from this is that this is a message from voters that what they want us to do above all – one, two and three – is focus on the big issues that matter to them, taking the country forward, making sure we fix the post-Covid aftershock, get us all through the economic aftershocks in the way we got through Covid, fix the energy supply issues – that’s where the inflationary spike is coming – and keep going with our agenda of high-wage, high-skilled jobs.”
It had been predicted in the run-up to Thursday’s local elections that the Conservatives were set to lose up to 800 council seats, with Partygate and the cost-of-living crisis taking the top priority for which box voters would be marking with as ‘X’ this May.
In recent weeks, pressure has been building on the Prime Minister to resign, after being handed a fixed penalty notice from the Met Police.
However, despite the prediction that the Tories would lose 800 seats, amid questions of the Prime Minister’s electoral viability, it is evident that Labour have not done as well as they would have liked in Red Wall and other northern council areas, despite their landmark successes in London.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer reacted to the results in front of supporters in Barnet.
He claimed a victory, declaring: “This is a big turning point for us. From the depths of 2019 in that General Election, back on track, winning in the north. Cumberland! Southampton! We’ve changed Labour and now we’re seeing the results of that.
“What brilliant teams we’ve got, all the fantastic work we’ve put in.”
“When it comes to London, you can hardly believe those names come off our lips. Wandsworth! They’ve been saying for years, ‘you’ll never take Wandsworth from us.’ We’ve just done it! Westminster! It’s an astonishing result.”
Last May, Starmer struggled to retain the support of Red Wall areas following an unprecedented defection of support to Boris Johnson in the 2019 election.
In the same period as last year’s council elections, Labour also lost Hartlepool in a by-election to the Tories, a constituency that had been notoriously Red for decades.