Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, whose work you may be familiar with from The Conversation. Adrian who will be dropping by from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally.
At the June 2017 UK general election, a dramatic late poll surge to Labour cost the Conservatives their Commons majority. Local government elections held on Thursday were the first major UK election since then. Every May, UK local government elections are held, but particular council wards are usually contested every four years. Thus, the wards up for election last Thursday were last contested in 2014.
This year, all 150 councils that held elections were in England; there were no local elections in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. About 40% of councillors up for election were in London. London’s boroughs held elections for all their seats, while most other councils held elections for one-third of their seats.
The most important result from the local elections is the national projected vote share. This is an estimate of vote share the various parties would have won if local elections were held all over the UK, as in a general election. In 2014, when these seats were last contested, Labour had a projected vote share of 31%, the Conservatives 29%, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) 17% and the Liberal Democrats 13%.
At the May 2017 local elections, the Conservatives thumped Labour 38% to 27% with 18% for the Liberal Democrats. These elections were held before Labour’s surge began. At the June 2017 general election, the Conservatives beat Labour by just 42.4% to 40.0% in popular votes.
This year, the BBC’s projected national vote share gives the Conservatives and Labour 35% each, with 16% for the Liberal Democrats. This represents a 1% two party swing to the Conservatives since 2014, but a 1% swing to Labour from the 2017 general election. Opposition parties have usually performed better in local elections than general elections, so this result is disappointing for Labour.
National polls currently have the Conservatives a few points ahead of Labour, so the local elections are consistent with that polling. The Liberal Democrats, who historically do better at local than general elections, have less than 10% in national polls, but won 16% in the local elections.
Labour won 2,310 councillors (up 59 since 2014), the Conservatives 1,330 (down 31), the Liberal Democrats 536 (up 75) and the Greens 39 (up eight). The biggest loser was UKIP, which won just three councillors (down 123). Most wards contested this year were in Labour-favouring areas.