May of this year saw elections to the devolved institutions in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as Mayoral elections in London and elections for local councils up and down the country. The Chelgate team have taken a look at what happened in elections 2016:
Local Elections 2016
On Thursday 5 May, elections for local governments took place across the UK. The Conservatives lost more council seats than Labour in the UK local elections. This result would ordinarily be expected, given that the governing party would usually be expected the one to sustain losses during local elections. As such, the Conservatives were expecting this, but what is possibly more surprising, is that the Labour Party, the official opposition, were also preparing themselves for losses in the locals, despite the rhetoric of their leadership.
Overall, Labour had a net loss of 18 council seats, compared to the Conservatives who saw a net loss of 48 seats. Although Labour did win all four Mayoral seats, including seeing Sadiq Kahn elected as Mayor of London, there has been a lot of focus on the losses Labour sustained and its lack of progress following its 2015 General Election defeat. Political commentators have criticised the Party’s leadership, and Jeremy Corbyn himself has ceded that the Labour Party are not on track for electoral victory in 2020. To add to this chaotic image, London’s new mayor, who was the first big political personality to nominate Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership race last year, has distanced himself substantially from both Mr Corbyn and the Parliamentary Labour Party.
Disappointingly for the Conservatives, they lost overall control of Elmbridge Borough Council in Surrey for the first time in eight years, meaning that no party has overall control following ward boundary changes. The party also lost overall control of Worcester, with Labour and the Greens gaining seats, and the city council going to No Overall Control. Much of this could be protest votes in general with people who disagree with what the Government is doing nationally. However, some of this could be due to the Local Plans which are being pushed through locally, which will see a lot of large scale development and which many local communities oppose.
The Conservatives have managed to hold onto their overall majority in Welwyn Hatfield, South Cambridgeshire, North Hertfordshire, Reigate and Banstead and Huntingdonshire. The party has also managed to comfortably retain control of most of the Surrey Councils – reinforcing the idea that these areas are a stronghold for them. The Conservatives also won back control of Peterborough City Council.
UKIP continued to make gains in Essex, picking up seats in Thurrock and Basildon. They will be pleased with this situation, especially in Thurrock, where they are on course to form a coalition administration with the Conservatives. However, disappointingly for UKIP, they did not gain overall control of any local authorities.
Whilst Labour’s results were not as bad as some were expecting, it is still the first opposition party to not increase its number of seats in mid-term elections in England since 1985.
Labour is no longer the largest party in Thurrock Council, losing ground to UKIP and the Conservatives. Labour also lost seats in Bury, an area with a large Jewish population, to the Conservatives and Lib Dems, possibly in response to the recent claims of anti-Semitism within Labour.
Labour did reasonably well in the South and managed to keep control of key councils such as Crawley (increasing its majority), Hastings, Harlow and Southampton. With Labour’s decent performance during council elections and the Mayoral election win, they are performing better than last year. However, only time will tell whether Labour has done enough to rebuild its support to win the 2020 general election.
The Lib Dems gained control of Watford Council, held onto the key battleground of Eastleigh and also picked up seats on other councils, such and Winchester. Whilst many commentators have written off the Liberal Democrats, these election results once again prove how effective they are at local campaigning and may well point to the beginning of a turnaround in their fortunes.
Overall, the parties are all likely to be pleased with their individual election 2016 results, largely for having not lost as many seats as they feared they could. However, when analysing the results, Labour’s failure to make breakthroughs in key marginal parliamentary constituencies will undoubtedly worry their 2020 General Election planners, and take some of the pressure off the Conservatives. Furthermore, are the recent successes of UKIP down to the upcoming referendum or are they indicative of their long term survival? With the Liberal Democrats increasing their vote for the first time since 2010 and gaining control of a council, does this mean they’re on the way back up? Only time will tell. Watch this space.
London Mayoral Elections 2016
After what many commentators are describing as Jeremy Corbyn’s saving grace, the Chelgate team have taken a look at what Sadiq Khan’s victory and what a new Labour Mayor of London means for the city and for the country.
Khan, who comes from a South London, working class background specialised in law prior to his career in politics, where he established himself as a local councillor for 12 years understanding the needs and issues surrounding local London politics. For the past 11 years Khan has been a Member of Parliament where he was previously the Minister of Transport and Minister for Communities under the Labour led government. It can be argued that these parliamentary roles have given Khan a detailed insight not only in the workings of London’s transport needs but also the commitment towards community cohesion, religion and race.
Housing has been a key political battleground in this Mayoral election, with both Khan and Goldsmith putting housing front and centre of both of their campaigns.
The role of Mayor of London holds immense powers with decision making approval on large scale London developments and as newly elected Mayor, Khan over the next four years will be able to grant the opportunity to push through and influence policies on where the future of the capital’s housing market is going.
Khan was highly critical of outgoing Mayor Boris Johnson’s housing policies and has promised to properly take charge of housing in London rather than ‘chair a meeting once a month of a new quango’. To this end, he has promised to set up an entirely new City Hall housing team, who will be responsible for fast tracking affordable homes developments.
During the campaign, Khan also promised to introduce a 50 per cent affordable housing target from new developments and for renters and first time buyers to have priorities over landlords and investors.
Khan has pledged to support housing associations build 80,000 new homes per year, with part of this funding coming from ‘part of the 400 million pounds that Conservative Party failed to invest into the affordable housing budget’ according to Khan.
He has already hit out over international buyers buying up properties off plan from developers before Londoners are given the opportunity. Under a Labour Led Greater London Assembly (GLA), Khan will implement planning policy to ensure that London residents will have priority before foreign investors in purchasing property in the city. However, when considering that some developers need to sell 30 per cent of new builds off plan to secure funding and with these being bought potentially three years in advance, it raises fears that the policy would in fact slow down the growth of new builds. High rental prices also came under attack by Khan during the election, with him promising a new form of rent based on a third of the local average income, which will be known as the ‘London living rent’.
Nor has he been shy in his criticism of private landlords, with the Labour Party proposing that the GLA will work with local borough councils to set up a new licencing scheme for landlords. Alongside this Khan will establish a not-for-profit letting agency to promote longer terms, stable tenancies for responsible tenants, and better landlords across London.
Transport has always been close to Khan’s heart, being the son of a London bus driver and a former Transport Minister, and with that in mind, Khan plans to personally chair Transport For London (TFL).
A key election pledge, Khan has promised a fare freeze on Oyster Card prices until 2020, as well as on London transport Cycle charges and the introduction of the one-hour unlimited bus ticket for £1.50.
In line with Labour’s attacks on supposed considerations of removing the Freedom Pass, Khan has guaranteed that all over 60s will continue to receive a Freedom Pass.
His transport proposals have been met with heavy criticism, with commentators and political opponents alike arguing that they are unaffordable and not budgeted for. However, Khan argues that his plans to streamline the management of the capitals travel network will ensure high standards of service continue and that he can further invest in TFL. Amongst his streamlining proposals, he plans to cut spending on the £383 million pounds that TFL currently spends on consultants and agency staff.
Over the next four years, Khan plans to support and boost business growth within the Capital by working in partnership to help industries and business deliver on skills, infrastructure and growth. He has pledged to introduce ‘Skills for Londoners’ – creating opportunities for local residents to train in skillsets that London’s economy is in need of. Khan is also campaigning for all Londoners to receive at least £10 per hour, or the ‘London Living Wage’ as it is known.
Although Khan never pushed his green policies to the front of his agenda, this shouldn’t be misinterpreted as Khan lacking plans to tackle London’s environmental problems.
The new Mayor of London will endeavour to protect the capitals green belts and encourage London’s air quality back to safe levels by keeping high level polluting vehicles out of the capital. He has also pledged to make cycling in London safer, improve access to greener forms of travel and to pedestrianize Oxford Street. Khan is now a vocal opponent of a proposed new third runway at Heathrow Airport, although his position on this remains open to criticism after he has previously campaigned in favour.
In rebuffing attacks from his Conservative rival, Zac Goldsmith, Khan has had to take a tough line on crime, promising to restore neighbourhood policing through the use of. Khan has also stated in his manifesto that there will be a clear strategy to help fight growing knife crime, although the details of this remain to be seen.
Having been dogged by accusations of being a friend of extremists and turning a blind eye to Islamic terrorist links, Khan promised that one of his main priorities will be to work with Islamic communities and the police to investigate and eradicate all forms of radicalisation and extremism.
Khan describes himself as a proud feminist and has promised to make gender equality a priority of the new GLA. He has pledged to see the gender pay gap between men and women close, although details of this proposal are still yet to be released.
The fight for the London Mayoralty was brutal and bitter, with both sides facing accusations of playing dirty and misleading their electorates. Ultimately we will not be able to judge how much of Goldsmith’s manifesto would have been implemented, or what it would have changed, but we can be certain that parts of the Khan manifesto will change London, either for the better or the worse.
Undoubtedly, there will be changes within city hall and the people that we will need to engage with will also be different. However, for a savvy political operator, by understanding what Khan has planned and beginning to understand the limits that may go with this, we will be able to get a clearer picture of what will change.
For most it would appear that housing and transport will be the areas most affected by a Khan mayoralty with the potential influx of affordable housing and the future implementation of the ‘London Living Rent.’ Selling a positive change towards a more dynamic Capital.
As Boris has been immortalised by the ‘Boris Bike’ and Ken the ‘Bendy Bus’ only the future can determine what Sadiq Khan’s legacy for London will be.
Scottish Parliament Elections 2016
The Scottish election results were unsurprising and yet unexpected at the same time. Whilst there was no doubt that the Scottish National Party were destined to win, many were surprised that they failed to win an overall majority. Indeed, Ms Sturgeon must undoubtedly be privately disappointed not to have performed as well as her predecessor, Alex Salmond.
Scotland provided the Conservatives with their best results of the elections, with Ruth Davidson’s team going on to win 31 seats, far greater than the 25 she was aiming for and more than double their 2011 result of a paltry 15 seats. What is more, the Conservatives are now the second largest party in the Scottish Parliament, with Ruth Davidson as the official leader of the opposition. These elections for the Conservatives were epitomised by Ruth Davidson’s personal victory in Edinburgh Central, where the Conservatives went from fourth place to take the seat.
Whilst the Conservatives had their best elections for generations, Labour failed to reverse their decline that we saw at the 2015 General Election. They lost 13 seats in these elections, pushing them into third place with just 24 seats overall. Whist polling showed the battle for second place to be neck and neck, this was not to be, and Labour lost their position as the official opposition.
The main point that we can take away from these elections is that another referendum on Scottish independence now looks unlikely in the immediate future. Whilst the Greens are outwardly in favour of independence, it is unlikely that they would support the SNP or that the SNP would want to be seen relying on other parties. However, a vote for ‘Brexit’ may well bring the issue of independence back to the forefront. Additionally, a number of controversial SNP policies, such as the named person scheme, may now have to be abandoned with the loss of their parliamentary majority.
Time will only tell if these results are just a blip or if we are seeing politics re-aligning along unionist vs nationalist lines. Regardless, Labour will now be looking more carefully at how to differentiate themselves from both the SNP and the Conservatives. We may well see this happen much more quickly on a local level with an increased scepticism towards coalitions in local councils. These elections also showed that the Liberal Democrats cannot be written off, and we should expect to see them holding or increasing their presence in local councils. This is especially true in the Highlands and Islands, where strong local campaigning is paying off. Local councils, especially in the border areas and Aberdeenshire will likely see an increasing Tory presence as the cement their presence there. In Scotland’s cities we can expect to see wider contests with all parties competing, and we would not be surprised to see Green Party councillors on Scotland’s city councils sometime soon.
Welsh Assembly Elections 2016
Despite the words of Leanne Woods, very little changed at these Welsh Assembly elections. Labour remained the largest party, as was widely expected, and Carwyn Jones remains as First Minister. Whilst Labour lost one seat, down from 30 to 29, and moved a step further away from an overall majority (31 seats are needed for a majority), their results were better than many expected, hanging on in all but one of their constituency seats.
The Conservatives failed in their bid to capture any of their target seats, including those which they won at the 2015 Westminster elections, and lost out to UKIP in the regional vote, losing three of their seats. Whilst their campaign positioned leader Andrew RT Davies as a potential
First Minister, in the end he ended up losing not only in his bid for that, but also losing his position as official leader of the opposition, with the Conservatives being pushed into third place.
Leanne Wood and Plaid Cymru certainly had a lot to smile about at these elections. Plaid increased their vote share and gained one seat to become the official opposition in the Assembly. Furthermore, Leanne Wood pulled off an impressive victory taking the previously safe Labour seat of Rhondda with a majority of over 3000 and unseating Labour Cabinet Member, Leighton Andrews.
Perhaps the most interesting results in this set of elections were in the regional list seats, where UKIP managed to secure 7 seats in the Assembly, with at least one AM from very region. This is the first time UKIP have secured representation in one of the devolved institutions. Amongst
the newly elected UKIP Assembly Members are former Tories – Mark Reckless and Neil Hamilton, who already appear keen to make their mark on the Assembly.
With Labour having moved a step closer away from a majority, the question we must now ask is will they seek a formal coalition with another party, perhaps rekindling the 2007-11 Labour/ Plaid coalition or will they seek to persuade a couple of AMs of the benefits of their policies? Either way, we can expect any radical policies to be shelved and significant amounts of politicking taking place in this new Assembly.
Whilst these elections have thrown up a few surprises, the political landscape of Wales has not changed significantly and we can expect parliamentary constituencies and local councils to continue to be three or more horse races. Labour have largely held onto their heartlands, and Plaid and the Conservatives continue to battle it out for the largely rural vote. We should expect these results to be mirrored in next year’s local election results, where we will undoubtedly see the Welsh tradition of councils falling under no overall control continue.