Elections : One Down, One to Go?

Last Thursday’s local elections favoured independents and the smaller parties. The Liberal Democrats did particularly well gaining 704 council seats and taking control of 17 additional councils, giving them control of 29 nationally. The Conservatives fared badly losing over 1330 seats nationally and losing control of 49 councils. Overall, though, the Conservatives remain the largest party with 3559 council seats and control of 93 local authorities. Labour did not advance, losing over 80 seats and control of 6 local authorities.

From the Transforming Yorkshire perspective, the elections went reasonably well. Regional political diversity was enhanced, the pro-devolution parties did quite well and the anticipated fall-off in turnout did not materialise; though turnout at often less than 30% was nowhere near as high as it should have been, given the importance of services provided and matters dealt with by local authorities.

Overall, within the region, Labour retained control of its heartlands within West and South Yorkshire. The Conservatives suffered setbacks in York and Scarborough and for once the two main parties had to contend with real challenges to their domination throughout the region. Labour lost control of Middlesbrough for the first time in 45 years at the hands of independents.

The Liberal Democrats re-established themselves as a political force within the region, but the Greens now also have something of a presence and look set to build on this in the future. Nationally the Greens now have over 260 council seats. The election proved a watershed for the “third pro-devolution party” as the Yorkshire Party gained its first elected councillors at the county and district level, two on East Riding Council and four on Selby District Council.

The Brexit debate and the disastrous attempts at implementation obviously influenced these elections. It will be interesting to see what happens in the European elections. If the Labour and Conservative parties are still divided, they could well see their respective shares of the vote shrink. The Brexit Party looks as though it may do quite well as it is likely to replace UKIP which was almost wiped out in the local elections.

It will also be interesting to see how the pro-remain parties fare; Liberal Democrats, Greens and the new Change UK party. They all seem to favour some sort of second referendum, but it is far from clear how this could be accommodated by the current Parliament and within the constraints of the Article 50 process. For me, the Yorkshire Party message strikes a chord, “leavers and remainers working together for Yorkshire.” We can live within or outside the EU and could probably survive quite adequately in either scenario but, if we cannot work together, what hope is there for the survival of this country?

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