With the final local election results announced over the weekend, now is a good time for Redwood to briefly evaluate the successes and failures, and to take stock of some of the main implications…
The elections show the complicated nature of local government across the UK, with contests taking place for 124 English councils (less than a third), for the devolved national administrations, for a handful of elected mayors outside London and for the Mayor of London and London Assembly. With some rather large caveats, all the main parties claim success and, given the scope for cherry-picking the good and ignoring the bad, each actually has justification for doing so.
London Mayor and the London Assembly
Sadiq Khan becomes Mayor of London with the largest mandate for an individual British politician. In his manifesto Khan identifies tackling the capital’s housing crisis as his main priority.
The property industry will be keen to learn how specific pledges play out. These include making 50 per cent of new homes affordable, clamping down on some overseas investors, building more homes while protecting the Green Belt, establishing a new Homes for Londoners team at City Hall and attracting institutional investment to finance building more homes in the rental sector. Separate commitments to a second runway at Gatwick, freezing fares and to be the most pro-business Mayor yet, will be rigorously scrutinised.
Khan’s success for Labour is replicated in the London Assembly, where Labour remains the largest party with 12 of the 25 seats, just shy of a majority and the same number as before, with the Conservatives (8), Greens (2), UKIP (2) and Liberal Democrats (1) making up the rest.
English council and elected Mayor elections
Labour’s achievements in London were not replicated nationwide. The party lost 18 seats, the Conservatives lost 48 seats and the Liberal Democrats and UKIP gained 45 and 25 seats respectively. Overall the Conservatives lost one council (Elmbridge), while the Liberal Democrats gained one (Watford) and Labour’s share remained the same. Fewer local authorities changed hands than was expected.
The fact little changed is noteworthy. Expectations were that losses would be inflicted upon Labour and should have been on the Conservatives, as is usually the case for the party of government. In the event, both Corbyn and Cameron claimed to have done well and Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron will also be pleased.
The strong victories of Labour candidates in mayoral contests, including in Bristol, Liverpool and Salford, alongside Westminster by-election victories in Sheffield Brightside and Ogmore in South Wales, helped offset Labour’s otherwise underwhelming showing. The results seem to have put off a challenge to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership for the time being.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
Corbyn may have been happy to have ‘hung on’ in England but in Scotland his party suffered a terrible result, pushed into third behind the Conservatives, who pulled off a remarkable triumph. The seemingly unstoppable SNP will be pleased with victory but lost its majority in the Scottish Parliament. In Wales, Labour is still the largest party in the Welsh Assembly but, like the SNP, fell short of a majority. The picture in Northern Ireland is, as usual, more complex but the Democratic Unionist Party continues to be the largest party and leader Arlene Foster will also continue as First Minister.
The results of last week will be quickly put to one side as eyes turn with apprehension toward the UK’s EU referendum on 23 June. The opinion polls suggest that the outcome could be too close to call, although confidence in the predictive powers of pollsters is at dismal low after the General Election.
One thing is for sure, if voters do decide to leave the EU next month, no caveats, excuses or explanations will disguise the fact that the result is a disaster for all the main party leaders (although it could give the SNP the justification it seeks to hold another referendum on Scotland’s future within the UK).
With the State Opening of Parliament on 18 May (and the introduction of the new legislative programme) and Royal Assent for the Housing & Planning Bill imminent, it is an interesting time…
If you would like to discuss any of the above and the implications for your business, please get in touch with Jared Ingham at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 020 7828 553.