Local elections: let the chips fall where they may

3 May 19

Localis’ Jonathan Werran looks at the early results of the local elections and considers how they may impact local growth and prosperity.

London elections

 

For my money, despite its accolades and record viewing figures, Amazon Prime’s Harry ‘Bosch’ outguns the mystery of unmasking ‘H’ in BBC’s ‘Line of Duty’ when it comes to high-stakes police drama. 

And when it comes to high-stakes local elections drama, Harry Bosch’s line: “Let the chips fall where they may,” sums up the excitement, thrills, spills and surprises of voters making strong local choices on how they are governed and who governs them.

So Wirral going Green because of resident concerns is a great localist election story. The views of residents cannot be taken for granted. In this context, it has also been a tremendous election for independent councillors. Whether from distinct on-the-ground issues or a more national ‘plague on all their houses’ remonstration against the Conservatives and Labour Party which as recently as June 2017’s general election hoovered up more than 80% of the national vote.

Capping a marvellous set of results, leader of the Local Government Association’s Independent Group Marianne Overton will have her work cut out introducing new members to local political life in Smith Square and beyond.

The immediate national beneficiaries appear to be the Liberal Democrats whose stunning gains in seats and councils include notable scalps in the form of Winchester and a return to life in old West Country fastnesses, such as Bath and North East Somerset, Taunton and West Somerset and North Devon.  The late Paddy Ashdown pioneered a path to power to the Lib Dems from the west in the 1990’s from the European woe of John Major’s Black Wednesday and Maastricht travails. This might be the inklings of history repeating.

The Conservative’s big losses in councillors and councils – most starkly in evidence in shire districts - must be seen from a high-watermark of the 2015 local polls that coincided with David Cameron’s upset general election win. But on a night of well-anticipated shellacking, special praise must go to Swindon’s Conservatives for fighting against the tide of the times and the announced closure of key local economic anchor Honda to increase the number of seats held and retain control.

For the Labour Party, it might really be seen as continuity Miliband for Corbyn’s party as far as disappointed expectations go locally. At this point in the political cycle and against the government’s Brexit implosion, a verdict of ‘must do better’ to say the least.


'From a localist perspective, if national renewal is to be built from rebalancing growth outside London and the south east, the place-leadership skills of our local leaders in building relationships with government, business and wider partners will be paramount.'


It’s a recurrent beef that the national press and broadcast media always try to read local polls as rehearsals for national. From a localist perspective, if national renewal is to be built from rebalancing growth outside London and the south east, the place-leadership skills of our local leaders in building relationships with government, business and wider partners will be paramount.

Localis’s forthcoming report ‘Hitting Reset – a case for local leadership’ will look at this from the viewpoint of central/local relations.  These changes of political control will be meaningful for the political economy, and have on the ground implications on strategic issues such as housing and local industrial strategy.

We can only wish all our councillors old and newly-elected alike, and local leaders the best in rising to the challenges of delivering prosperity to the communities they represent.

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