The Tories have lost over 1000 seats as both major parties were hit by a Brexit backlash in the local elections overnight. The Conservatives are down 1323 councillors, while Labour lost 77 representatives compared to 2015. Theresa May said voters had sent the ‘simple message’ that her party had to ‘get on’ with delivering Brexit. Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the results were a clear sign of voter dissatisfaction over Brexit:
We’ll see what final results of local elections look like by end of day as they are pretty mixed geographically up to now but so far message from local elections- “Brexit – sort it.” Message received.
— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) May 3, 2019
Labour’s council leader in Barnsley, Stephen Houghton, echoed McDonnell’s message: ‘We have been out and about across the borough and the message we are getting loud and clear is all about Brexit, and the residents are telling us they are going to make sure there is some change because of their dissatisfaction over Brexit’. Sunderland’s council leader Graeme Miller said: ‘Sunderland voted as a city to leave in June 2016, and having had a Labour message across the city from MPs saying we need to be having a second referendum, people in Sunderland have said ‘we are just not accepting that’.
While it was a bad night for the Tories and Labour, smaller parties including the Lib Dems, Greens and Independents enjoyed big gains at their expense. The Lib Dems are so far up 692 councillors, gaining control of eight councils, with the Greens up by 192. Independent councillors took a 25 per cent bigger vote share in the 69 wards in which they were standing in a further sign that voters were turning away from the major parties. But Ukip, which has so far lost 144 councillors, failed to capitalise on the trend, showing a clear decline in support for the party since it won 176 seats in the 2015 local election.
Conservatives, who were braced for a miserable night, lost control of 17 councils, including Peterborough – where a by-election will be held next month – Basildon and St Albans. The party did make two gains though: taking control of Walsall and North East Lincolnshire, which had previously had no governing majority.
But the big news from the night is the unpopularity of Labour’s Brexit stance among voters. Jeremy Corbyn’s party lost control of Hartlepool, Bolsover and the Wirral and lost its mayoral post in Middlesborough to an independent candidate. Labour’s Barry Gardiner said the party had been punished because of its bid to please both Remain and Leave voters. He said: ‘There are two competing principles here and we are trying to hold them in tension’. The results are the worst for the party since 2009, when Labour lost 291 councillors.
The Lib Dems’ strong performance marks a big turnaround for the party since their dismal performance in the 2011 local elections, when the party lost 748 councillors.
Here are the key results so far:
|Bath and North East Somerset|
|Hinckley and Bosworth|
|Vale of White Horse|
|North East Derbyshire|
|North East Lincolnshire|
|City of Peterborough|
|County of Herefordshire|
|Folkestone and Hythe|