Coffee House

The other awkward May elections and why they matter

3 April 2014

4:06 PM

3 April 2014

4:06 PM

After all the excitement of Nick vs Nigel and the endless mutterings in the Tory party about uprisings following the European elections, you might be forgiven for thinking that the European elections are the only game in town in May. But there are 4,161 local council seats up for election on the same day – and the main parties are quite keen to make big efforts to secure a good result in those polls.

The Conservatives have been holding campaign days in London, where many of the seats up for election are located, and making those local council seats a focus for the parliamentary party, which descends on different areas to canvass and deliver leaflets on set days. The whips hold their campaign days on Tuesdays and take a band of MPs along with them. There are a number of reasons for this focus: the party wants a strong enough showing in the local elections that it can reassure activists that things are going to be OK in 2015. The general election will also be easier if there are more councillors around to canvass and stuff leaflets through the doors, and so getting more elected, particularly in key marginal London seats such as Hampstead and Kilburn, will help that fight. MEPs are less useful in that respect. The results of these polls are announced before the results of the European elections, which means they will get a fair amount of attention.


I’ve previously reported that some Conservative groups plan to tell would-be Ukip voters that they might as well go ahead and have their naughty moment at the ballot box for the European elections, but that it would be brilliant if they could still vote Tory in the locals. That is of course not an official strategy but it fits with the party’s focus on the local seats. Labour, meanwhile, is beefing up its response to Ukip, but some MPs worry that there is still not a proper strategy for local Labour parties to fight Ukip in their areas. A good showing for Ukip against Labour in this year’s local elections could demoralise the party, some Labourites privately fear.

As for other campaigning, Tory MPs have been told that they are welcome to come and lend a hand in run-up to the Scottish independence referendum, and that Labour MPs in Scotland are very happy for them to do so as well. This sounds like a statement of the obvious as Conservatives should be able to campaign on such a big issue, but it’s significant that there was a discussion at all about it. It suggests nerves about the toxicity of the Tory brand. Indeed, I hear that those Conservatives who do plan to travel across the border in the next few months have been advised that making a big thing of being a Tory might not be the best idea.

P.S. I also wonder whether the predicted uprising after the Europeans is being a little overstated in some quarters. Anyone who moves against Cameron after even a very bad result will look a fool and the party is currently in reasonable enough shape that only a few MPs would consider supporting such a move, leaving the majority to laugh them down. Certain troublemakers have also given undertakings that they won’t try to cause the same sort of trouble around the Queen’s Speech as they did last year. What will be more important will be the little messages that the Prime Minister sends out in the reshuffle by promoting key eurosceptic MPs, a few policy goodies for the Conservative Right in that Queen’s Speech, and a continuing trickle of announcements that suggest his work on European reform is bearing fruit.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments

    VOTED Ukip 2010 & hope bookies right will top poll in Europeans – the implications! but the Tories must win in 2015 – EM would be a disaster – think that 13 more months of good economic news & EM’s incoherence,etc. will produce victory.
    to fellow Ukipers – HOLD YOUR NOSE BUT VOTE TORY MAY 2015

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …LibLabCon all have the same stench, lad.

  • Gazcon

    In response to the photo, five. Possibly six.

  • allymax bruce

    Isabel, last night I went to another iReferendum debate, with presentations from Alison Johnstone, Marco Biagi, Tommy Shepherd, & Liz Lochhead. Three ‘political pundits’, and one poet. I’m a definite Yes voter, bored with the ‘political pundits’, (Alison was the best political presenter though), and was interested in Liz’s ’emotional’ expositionreading, of a dark, self-inspection character, called Corbie. I thought it represented very well the STV, BBC, Press ‘dark noise’ hate being spewed-out into Scots society; effecting the Scottish Psyche in a negative way. A’ wiz in ma element tae delve intae this charater’, Corbie, because it represented something that was happening, but not being reported. Corbie as a nagging, crowing doubt, imputed into the minds of the populace by the ‘dark noise’ media, was the only real vehicle that depicted the self-loathing malfeance of the doubters, cringers, and haters. So, I entered the Q&A fray, knowing full well the church hall accoustics, the medium, the zeitgeist, was perfect for the delivery; and the ‘dark noise’ perpetrators, the tv cameras, which comes to facilitate and be a vehicle for, the self-deprecating of the Scottish Psyche, the demon TV cameras, were there to capture their own character for posterity. And here it is, in a self-loathing, self-hating, doubting poem. I’d like to thank Liz Lochhead for giving this Corbie character to epitomise the TV ‘dark noise’.

    Corbie: could a’ liv wi masel
    (witnessing Liz)
    by allymax

    could a’ liv wi masel
    knowin a’ voted no the day afore
    could a’ liv wi masel
    no closin thon door

    the doubtin the hatin
    the cringin n’ wrath
    why dae a always pit blocks in ma path

    a’ could’ve voted yes
    a’ could’ve cheenged everythin
    just once firever
    a’ wid’ve been happier
    bein me in ma skin

    yes ma life is dark
    but no ma ither me lives in hate
    yes a’m a cringer
    yes but no a’m a day too late

    could a’ liv wi masel
    could a’ liv wi masel
    could a’ liv wi masel
    if a’ voted no

    All Rights Reserved to allymax
    Last Post Productions

  • terence patrick hewett

    Ukip – tick. Ukip – tick.

  • saffrin

    UKIP didn’t have a candidate in my ward last time.
    LibLabCon was the only party standing.
    No wonder they won.

  • Frank

    “… his work on European reform is bearing fruit”. Come on Isabel, do you seriously believe this nonsense? It doesn’t help the tory party one iota to continue writing this delusional rubbish. The party needs to address reality and plan for it.

  • Tom Tom

    Council Elections are a joke. They have no power, no accountability, use public funds for party ends, and the whole thing is a charade since spending is controlled by Whitehall. Councils should be abolished completely.

    • Alexsandr

      especially parish councils. ours puts through increases year on year. waste of space.

      • Conway

        Mine has kept the precept the same. Change your council!

      • Wessex Man

        er the Parish Council where I live have kept their precept at the same level for the last six years, whereas Wiltshire County Council winners at the last Council elections immediately voted themselves a 50% increase in allowances!

  • Alexsandr

    So someone goes into a polling booth intending to vote UKIP in the Europeans, then they look at the council ballot paper, sees UKIP then thinks, ‘in for a penny…’
    If UKIP do well in the euros, expect them to do well in the councils too.

    and like rebelling back benchers, once someone has voted UKIP there is not the psychological barrier there to doing it again.

    • telemachus

      You are deluded
      Joe Public likes the live at the Apollo Farage act and will vote for more on Europe
      But they also read that Ukip councillors think that floods are the wrath of God for Gay Marriage and so, spurning the 2 coalition parties they will turn to Labour in droves

      • Pitkapoika


      • Alexsandr

        UKIP dont have a monpoly on loony members. We have a right one as tory councillor here. And i am sure there are some labour loonies -but not here.

      • Hexhamgeezer


      • anyfool

        they will turn to Labour in droves,
        Now who is delusional, I told you 2 years ago the Tories will win in 2015.

        Labour is losing votes year in year out, these people are lost to Labour forever, the only thing keeping Labour MPs in place is they have not went to any other party, if they do go to Ukip the whole party is toast, Ukip will now concentrate on the people you stabbed in the back, the white working class.

        Labour has 52 MPs with majorities of under 3000 including the idiot Balls, they cannot win with Miliband who signed his own death warrant when he ruled out a referendum on Europe, he like you is an idiot..

        • telemachus

          You forget the UKIP split of the Tory vote in the 43 Tory marginals
          And the backlash to SNP after the referendum loss

          • alabenn

            You like all your kind. Think everyone is motivated by spite.
            there will be no backlash against the SNP more a reckoning against Labour

      • saffrin

        Seeing as the head of the Environment Agency is not only labour but also gay mentioning floods is something of an own goal on your part.
        Our Nigel is up for dredging the ditches and rivers, LibLabCon are blaming everything on global warming.
        On that count alone, UKIP wins again.

      • Richard N

        In your dreams!

        Why would anyone ‘turn to Labour’ for any reason at all – other than that they are habitual Labour voters? Labour has no policies at all in reality – though they must be now desperate to think of some, as the Tories are pulling level with them, and they now realize, presumably, that their ‘tactic’ to do nothing and say nothing about any real policies, believing that they will win the GE by default, clearly is not going to work.

        • telemachus

          Habit dies hard
          The rest is revulsion against the coalition parties
          And revulsion among women at Farage

          • Wessex Man

            Oh dear, it must be Paul Nuttall that’s attracting all the women then, we have more women members as apercentage than any other party.

            What’s it like in your world tele? is everything soft and fluffy and red?

        • Kitty MLB

          There tactic was to hover in the shadows like a group of Hyenas. Hoping everything would go wrong, party before
          country. They assume because Ed Milibland won the Labour
          election by default that he could wander into Downing Street
          by default also, as you said its not going to work. And conservatives must protect this country
          from a malignant, and destructive socialist government.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          It is likely going to work, though.

          It doesn’t matter how incompetent the Millipedes are, if the people view LibLabCon as the clones that they are. The electorate voted against Lab incompetency in 2010, and they’ll vote against LibCon incompetency in 2015. Same-same.

  • Kitty MLB

    Its Labour who are going to be slaughtered in our own elections in May,
    UKIP are doing very well in the working class Labour areas, especially in the North.
    Farage’s new peoples army ( and he has drawn a line in the sand) will
    turn these little red ( badly run councils) purple.
    UKIP were always going to come first in these EU elections , its a case of how
    badly the Lib Dems will do and where the EU loving Labour will come.
    As far as our own elections are concerned, people are far more bothered about how
    their own councils are run and at the end of the day that is far more important,
    then residents being in revolt- there is a saying- Cutting off you own nose to spite you face.

    • El_Sid

      UKIP are doing very well in the working class Labour areas

      No they’re not. According to the
      latest relevant Yougov poll just 5% of those who voted Labour in 2010 are planning to switch to UKIP next GE, compared to 14% of 2010 Tories (and 9% of 2010 LibDems). For the Euros it’s 33%/15%/15% C/LD/L.

      • Denis_Cooper

        Except that many of those 9% who voted LibDem in May 2010 had already switched to Labour by early 2011, by which time the LibDems had been deserted by 60% of those who they’d got to vote for them in the election, so now those people are actually switching from Labour to UKIP not from LibDem to UKIP.

      • Alexsandr

        what about those who would be regarded as traditional labour voters but didnt vote in 2010. they may vote UKIP

      • Richard N

        Anyone who believes YouGov polls about UKIP is pretty silly. Their brief is to kill UKIP, and they have constantly given them polling results far below the results that they have achieved in real elections throughout the last year.

        Prepare for a very big shock in these elections – EU and local: UKIP will achieve at least double what YouGov is claiming they score in their polls.

      • Wessex Man

        Well we’ve not got long to find out who’s right you or Kitty, I have a sneaking feeling that it’s going to be Kitty!

  • kyalami

    God help the Tories in the shires, where their ill-thought-through policy of “build lots of houses” has the residents in revolt.

    Or as Matt puts it


    • HookesLaw

      And of course labour would not build more houses?
      Its labour who are demanding more houses than we are getting.
      People live in ‘the shires’ – do they want the place to becaome a wasteland do they want doctors and hospitals and schools and other services? Where are the provioders of this going to live.
      My grand daughter has just 16 in her class. 16. How long will the school stay open at that rate?

      • kyalami

        Residents’ associations are becoming ever more powerful over the last few years and in some cases have wrested control of the local council.

        Yes, we want doctors and hospitals and schools and other services. What’s more, we’ve had these for many many years.

        By all means feel free to run as a candidate in your own local elections, Hooky, on a “build more houses” ticket. Let us know how you get on.

        • Alexsandr

          how can anyone start to discuss housing without discussing immigration? And now flooding, because development caused more runoff.

          • Conway

            Well, a speaker at a CPRE conference on building over the countryside earlier today managed it. He cited divorce, people living longer, people having children, but not one mention of importing lots of people who then need to be housed.

        • Wessex Man

          He hasn’t a clue, the Tories and the pals the Lib/dums have been in power for nearly four years now and the only things being built around here are Solar Farms and Wind Turbines on good agricultural land!

          You should be ashamed Hooky!

      • berosos_bubos

        Not in the East of England then.

    • berosos_bubos

      Building houses (private sector) is one of the best and most popular policies there is, after cutting taxes.

      • kyalami

        Not in rural areas it isn’t.

  • black11hawk

    That last part is interesting, I heard from a well-informed source that John Redwood and others are on manoeuvres to cause trouble after the European elections.

    • Hello

      Well they better make sure they cause a leadership contest and despatch Cameron if they do, because otherwise it’s going to fall short of expectations and, as Isabel said, they’ll just look rather silly. And good luck with that.

      The next election is going to be tight, why would Redwood want to pursue a course of action that led to even a slight dip in the polls?

      • the viceroy’s gin

        The next election is going to be anything but close, and is going to see Dave’s head mounted on a spike, unless it’s mounted in the meantime. Everybody knows all this now, even you tribalists. The only thing keeping the usual conspirators on the sidelines, the albino poshboy, Boy George, Mistress May, etc., is the certain knowledge that the hand that wields the dagger will never wear the crown. And they all want to wear the crown.

        So these spineless jellyfish, who would claim the right to bravely lead the House, are hiding in the shadows waiting for the electorate to do the inevitable deed.

        • Hello

          Interesting theory, but you forget that the Tories have already learnt the lesson of dispatching their leader. They’re unlikely to make the same mistake twice.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            The only mistake is dispatching a competent leader, and Call Me Dave is the farthest thing imaginable from that, which you tribalists will find out when the electorate dispatches his head onto a spike, 13 months from now.

          • Wessex Man

            Then they are definately toast!

      • black11hawk

        I think Isabel’s right, Cameron and Osborne have implemented or announced a number of policies recently which have pleased backbenchers, the support base for this kind of rebellion would be minimal.

        • Alexsandr

          its not the back benchers he has to worry about. Its the members who have left the tory party who he needs to stuff envelopes and go out canvassing. and its the old tribal voters who are mightily p1ssed off with the current lot. I am sure a lot of households may give anyone canvassing for the tories a bad time, or even laugh and point.

          • MirthaTidville

            During Dave`s slippery ascent up the pole, he missed out on the `stuffing envelopes and raising funds` Depts(didnt think he would learn anything). He thought the people there were swivelled eyed loons, retired Colonels and their blue rinsed ladies, whose advice and favour he could very well do without.

            As the `Viceroy` said above..his head will soon be on a spike, one way or another

            • Conway

              Dave has insulted the people he needs. Well, Dave, the Turnip Taliban, the loons, fruitcakes, gadflies and clowns won’t be voting for you again. I doubt your pushing through gay “marriage” will have brought in sufficient numbers to replace them.

      • Wessex Man

        Who cares? they’re toast!