Conservatives Win Big in U.K. Local Elections
Eric Lendrum, Politics Contributor
Just one month out from the snap general election on June 8, the United Kingdom just held its annual local elections for thousands of councilor seats and several mayoral elections across Great Britain, Scotland, and Wales. If this election is to be considered a bellwether for the June 8 general, then things are looking very good for Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party.
Prior to the election, the Labour Party held the plurality of local seats with just over 1,500. According to The Telegraph, the results thus far show that the ruling party has won nearly 560 seats, while the opposition party has lost over 320. The new Conservative plurality is expected to rise, and could very well reach 1,900 total seats under Conservative control, while the new total of Labour seats will land somewhere around 1,100. This constitutes the strongest Conservative showing in a local election cycle since 2008, and the weakest performance of the Labour Party since 2010.
The other, smaller parties, also fared poorly. The other major left-wing party, the Liberal Democrats (or “Lib Dems”), lost about 40 seats, despite an increase in their total popular vote share. The Scottish National Party, expecting a surge of support due to calls for a second Scottish Independence Referendum after the passing of Brexit, lost a handful of seats as well.
The Conservatives also achieved stunning upsets in mayoral races in previously Labour-friendly territories, including Tees Valley and West Midlands.
When converting the results into a total popular vote across the U.K., the Conservatives garnered 38%, with Labour falling 11 points behind at 27%. The Lib Dems came in third with 18%.
The other major story to come out of these local elections is the apparent demise of the UK Independence Party (UKIP). UKIP had been the leading advocate for Brexit for over 20 years, but with their primary - and indeed, essentially their only - goal having finally been achieved, it would appear that the party has become purposeless. The sole UKIP MP, Douglas Carswell, after he left the party and became an independent, announced that he would not stand for reelection and instead encouraged all UKIP voters to vote Conservative. This trend seemed to be replicated in the public opinion polls for the upcoming general election, where, upon Prime Minister May’s official announcement of the snap election, the Conservatives saw a massive spike while UKIP saw a simultaneous plunge.
In these local elections, UKIP lost 145 out of their 146 seats, and their overall popular vote share plummeted to just 5%. However, party leader Paul Nuttall seemed willing to accept the end of UKIP if it means the Conservatives gaining a larger majority so as to negotiate a better Brexit deal, saying that this is a price he is “prepared to pay.”
The elections have only increased the speculation that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is not prepared to lead the Labour Party to victory in June. Polls have consistently had Labour down by double-digits - anywhere from 11% to 25% - behind the Conservative Party. These local elections do not bode well for Labour’s chances on June 8, and indeed only fuel the already-strong momentum of the Conservative Party.
These elections should increase the amount of interest and attention surrounding the upcoming general election, even despite - or perhaps because of - the result seeming like a foregone conclusion.
You can follow the author on Twitter: @EricLendrum26.
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