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Mixed results for Labour and Conservative in local elections

The Conservatives have held off a Labour surge on key London councils in last night’s local elections, with both parties benefitting from a nosedive in the UKIP vote.

The elections, deemed to be Theresa May’s first test of national popularity since the national elections last year, showed Labour failing to take main targets in London such as Wandsworth, whereas the Tories took overall control of Labour target Barnet.

Smaller parties such as the Remain-backing Lib Dems had a largely successful night, regaining control of the London Borough of Richmond from the Conservatives, an area which had one of the highest proportions of vote to remain in the EU Referendum in 2016.

On the contrary, UKIP suffered an implosion in its popularity, suffering a loss of 92 seats as of 9am on Friday morning.

The Conservatives reaped the rewards of UKIP’s demise, taking key councils such as Basildon in Essex. Areas that voted Leave were the most inclined to vote Tory if they went away from UKIP, which has only gained two seats as of this morning.

With the results still rolling in until this evening, Labour’s predicted boom in popularity in target seats across the country did not go as planned: despite winning back Plymouth and Trafford from Tory control, Jeremy Corbyn’s party lost ground in Hillingdon and failed to make inroads in London Conservative strongholds of Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea.

One of the most polarising council areas of the campaign was the Tory stalwart council in Kensington and Chelsea, where the Conservatives retained control despite losing one seat to Labour and a barrage of complaints regarding its handling of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Labour’s ongoing antisemitism row was claimed to factor in losses of flagship councils to Tory control, such as Barnet, an area in London which has one of the highest Jewish populations in the country.

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive at the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU), said: “We’ve had a lot of elections over the last three years; at the same time there’s been a series of scandals from Grenfell Tower to Cambridge Analytica that have dented people’s confidence in democratic processes. Word on the doorstep is that there’s a degree of voter fatigue being expressed. 

“However, while people often read local elections as a simple proxy for national politics, we shouldn’t forget that they are actually about real local issues: homes, care of older people, school places, children’s services, libraries, streets and refuse collection.

“It’s notable that many local candidates are distancing themselves from their national parties. They are right to focus on local issues and voters should as well.”

Elsewhere, voting in Swindon, Bromley, and Woking was marred by controversy as some voters were reportedly turned away as they did not have the right identity documents.

Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement, said: “The government was warned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and over 40 leading charities and academics the voter ID will have a disproportionate impact on older people, young people, BME communities, trans people, and disabled people.

“But instead of listening to the experts and the vast evidence base, the government decided to implement a mistaken policy with the full knowledge that voters could be disenfranchised. The fact that voters were denied their right to vote is proof that voter ID has no place in our democracy.”


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 Image Credit: Dominic Lipinski PA Wire


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