News from British and Canadian Conservatives

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Results all in - election round up

After the problems with the automated counting trials in Warwick and Breckland, the final results of the 2007 local, Scottish and Welsh elections are finally all in. There's still the possibility of legal challenges in Scotland, after more than 100,000 ballots were accidentally spoiled, owing to the complicated combination of Simple Plurality, List and Single Transferable Vote electoral systems.

In England, the Conservatives gained 912 seats, with a total of 5291, more than half of all the seats up for grabs. Labour were the biggest losers, dropping 500 seats and falling to third place with fewer than 2000 councillors. The Lib Dems fared little better, losing around 250 seats. The ubiquitous "Others" also lost 160 seats, mostly in the form of Independents. The Green Party made reasonable gains, with the BNP up one and Mebyon Kernow also making small gains. UKIP were amongst the losers on the night - having made much of the chances of their 1000 candidates, they actually lost a seat (leaving them with 4 out of more than 10,000), which is fewer than the Cornish Nationalists managed!

In terms of councils, the Conservatives had a nett gain of 39 - including the last to declare: Warwick. Of course, Shepway was another gain, and some highlights included taking Gravesham, Plymouth and Blackpool from Labour and Bournemouth, Torquay and Windsor & Maidenhead from the Lib Dems, all with massive swings. On the down side, the Lib Dems took Eastbourne off the Tories, while North Lincolnshire switched from blue to red. Overall, both Labour and the Lib Dems lost councils though - so it has to be seen as a fantastic night for the Tories. The Lib Dems probably have the least to celebrate.

The political map of English Local Government shows that the Tories are now dominant in southern and central England. Importantly, the Conservatives also made strong gains in the north - although you'd be forgiven for not knowing that, given that the BBC seem to be in denial. The Conservatives now dominate Lancashire's local councils, and are the largest party in Yorkshire - with York seeing the party taking 8 seats after being wiped out in 2003. The gains deprived the Lib Dems of control. The East Riding also went Tory, as did Chester, like most of Cheshire. Crewe and Vale Royal both came within one seat of turning blue. In the inner cities, there were still no gains in Liverpool, Manchester or Newcastle, but the Conservatives became the largest party in Bury and Birmingham.

In Wales, the result was probaly slightly better than Labour feared, although they dropped further into the realms of minority status. Plaid Cymru remained the second largest party, with 3 gains, with the Conservatives being held in third place with only one nett gain. The Lib Dems suffered, once again, making no headway at all and being a very poor fourth place overall. The Conservatives are able to celebrate some stunning gains in the FPTP seats. All of the seats which are held in Westminster (Presesli Pembrokeshire, Clwyd West and Monmouthshire) returned Tory AMs, as did top targets Carmarthen West & Pembrokeshire South and Cardiff North. The Vale of Glamorgan, Newport West, Gower, Cardiff South, Cardiff West, Montgomeryshire, Aberconwy, Vale of Clwyd, Delyn and Clwyd South all saw the Conservatives reduce the margins considerably, providing a springboard for further gains next time around, with all the other parties coming under pressure from the resurgent Welsh Conservatives.

In Scotland, the Tories performed considerably better than either the polls or political pundits had forecast. They remained ahead of the Lib Dems, held all of their constituencies (Edinburgh Pentlands, Ayr South and the key Westminster target area, Galloway) and even gained Roxburgh and Berwickshire from the Lib Dems. The entire border area is now controlled by Conservatives in either Holyrood or Westminster. Overall, the close fought battle between Labour and the SNP saw all of the smaller parties squeezed though. The Conservatives and Lib Dems each lost a seat, feuding SSP and Solidarity were wiped out as were Senior Citizens. The number of independents declined to one and the Greens only took 2 seats. The result is that there's no obvious two-party coalition. To work, it would need two of the three main parties - Labour, SNP, Conservative - to come together, and that doesn't look likely to happen. Only time can tell who will finally come up with the goods. I think that the Lib Dems and Greens will probably come to a deal with the SNP in the end, but the Lib Dems have made clear that they won't back a referendum on independence. The new Government could find itself reliant on Tory votes, giving Goldie's team a rare sniff of power in Scotland.

Finally, the Scottish local elections brough the expected shift towards minority administrations, which were already prevalent in Scotland, due to the strength of several parties. Labour held 2 councils, with the three island councils all remaining Independent. The remainder are all in NOC. Labour were the big losers, with the other three parties all gaining seats. Indeed, the SNP now have more councillors than anyone else, for the first time. For the Tories, Stirling was a bad story. The party was on the cusp of taking control under FPTP, but now finds itself in a poor third place. South Ayrshire was better. The Conservatives ran the council with the aid of the Chairman's casting vote. They remain the largest party, losing only three seats under STV. The SNP were the main beneficiaries there, as Labour lost ground. Other Conservative successes included Dumfries and Galloway, where the Conservatives were already the largest group and gained 5 seats to consolidate that position. The Scottish Borders also saw the Conservatives perform well, holding their 11 seats to become the largest party. It seems that the Scottish Conservatives are rebuilding from the south, just as the English did some years ago!

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