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Friday, June 11, 2004

Elections 2004

Most of the results of the local elections have now come in, and in typical fashion the mainstream British press is tearing into Tony Blair, either because they are backing the Tories, or because they are anti-war. The BBC is typical here. The BBC did a poll, in which amongst other things (some which were indeed negative from Tony Blair's point of view) that his leadership (as opposed to popularity) was greater than that of Michael Howard or Charles Kennedy put together (the two main opposition leaders). Also that more people believed that Labour was delivering on making the public services better. Yet in the BBC Article only mentions the negative points. If you hadn't watched the election programme last night at about 00:15, iirc, you would not know of this. I point this out to explain why I pay so little attention to the analysis of the results that one might see floating around.

There is another factor here: no government in mid-term ever does well at local elections. This becomes more and more pronounced the longer they have been in power, Labour has now been in 7 years, and one would expect these negative effects to be pretty marked. As a general rule the ruling party recovers some local ground in election year.

Onto the figures. Elections were taking place in 166 local councils in England and Wales. There is a nice map over at the BBC, but I'm not entirely certain how up to date it is. Many of the councils this year were urban, though there were a rural smattering. 2 councils have not yet declared - Birmingham and Denbighshire. In total I think just under 6000 seats are up for grabs (5816 without the two not yet returned). Labour have lost 484, the gains being mostly split between the Tories and Lib Dems on a 2:1 ratio, roughly (163 and 132 respectively). This of coures hides the larger picture, Labour has actually lost just under 550 to date, but also gained just over 80. Interestingly the Lib Dems lost over 100 seats, while the Tories only lost in the 50s. Indeed, in total 867 seats have changed hands - or about 15% of the total.

Labour has a net loss of 8 councils (winning 7 and losing 15). The Tories are up 10 councils, with nothing negative. Very interestingly considered they won in terms of overall seats to LibDems actually lost a net 2 councils (losing 4 and winning only 2). Finally, so far slightly more councils are "No Overall Control" - or NOC for short - up a net 2 ('gaining' 17 and 'losing' 15).

What I have not yet been able to find very much out about turnout. This article is virtually useless, but all that I could find, and it suggests that the trend I heard last night was correct: that turnout is up across the country, people probably being galvinised by the Iraq Controversy and by the EU Constitional Treaty. I don't doubt Labour will try and claim all postal-voting has been a success, but I don't think it is.

On a side note the Welsh nationalist party, Plaid Cymru, seems to have done badly, with a net loss of 26 seats, so from 191 seats to 165. This losing them control of two councils to Labour, they keep hold of just one. I'm not entirely certain what to make of that, but I'd assume there are local rather than national explanations for that.

Another side note is that Ken Livingstone has gotten re-elected as London Mayor. Good for him.

Overall conclusions: the country's confused. There is definite anger against Labour over Iraq, but then this is nothing unusual. Governments are never popular mid-term. Against that neither the Tories or the Lib Dems are convinving - though I think the Tories had a slightly better night than the Lib Dems. My reasoning for that is that the Tories did not lose control of a single county. But neither can take much comfort. Out of the 5816 seats returned so far here are the total tallies: Labour 2171 Conservative (Tory) 1633 LibDems 1246. In what some are reporting as a disaster Labour still comes off having got the most seats. Certainly a dismal result, but nothing spectacular either way. And these elections are only getting their brief moment of glory before the Euro election results which are the ones everyone is really interested in. But we'll have to wait till Sunday for the rest of Europe to finish voting before we know those (unless we follow the Dutch and publish them anyway in defiance of Brussels). However tempting I can't see TB consenting to that.

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