Local Elections 2016 – a tale of missed opportunities

12 May 2016, Blog

So with a few days to reflect on the local election results what can we now draw from the votes cast across all parts of the UK last week?  In short it was a missed opportunity for all the main political parties to stamp their authority on UK politics for the next few years.

Let’s start with the story of the night – Scotland. Here Nicola Sturgeon and her SNP government were widely expected to repeat their historic performance of last year. Yet the SNP, in part due to the proportional voting system in Scotland (which was originally designed in 1998 to prevent a single party government) failed to secure an overall majority. With the support of the Greens the SNP will be able to comfortably govern but it was an undoubted missed opportunity for Sturgeon to stake her claim to have a mandate for a 2nd referendum on independence in the next few years.

If the result for the SNP was disappointing it was nothing compared with the result Labour produced north of the border. To finish a distant 3rd behind the Conservatives is a remarkable feat. Let’s not forget, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign last year had, at its heart, his ability to rebuild the Labour Party in Scotland. That rebuilding job might take as long as Hadrian’s Wall to complete…

The bright spot for Labour was London and the election of Sadiq Khan by a convincing margin (although no greater than Labour’s lead over the Conservatives in London at the General Election last year). Khan has wasted no time indicating his determination to “be his own man”. If rebuilding is the name of the game for Labour in Scotland, then in London it is simple building. Homes. And lots of them in the next 4 years that Londoners can actually afford to live in. Not an easy task and developers are already concerned about the potential direction of travel that Khan will head in.

The other convincing result for Labour was in Bristol where Marvin Rees won the mayoralty and the party secured a majority on the Council for the first time in a generation. With no elections in Bristol until 2020, many will hope that the city will benefit from some much needed political stability.

Across the Severn Bridge, Labour remain in control in Wales although the talking point of the results there was the rise of UKIP and the quite bizarre sight of Neil Hamilton returning to front line politics.

The missed opportunity for the Conservatives was undoubtedly across the south of England. Councils such as Southampton, Crawley, Stroud and Redditch could and perhaps should have swung to the Conservatives at a time when the Labour brand is so weak. The end result is that Jeremy Corbyn will be safe as leader of the opposition for some time – Downing Street won’t be unhappy about that.

The acclaimed political analysts Rawlings and Thrasher have produced the “National Equivalent Vote Share” based on these results. This is the technical way of saying ” how would these results have played out if all the country had voted?” Politicians and analysts often focus on this as it is the best indication of the true state of the parties. The analysis shows Labour on 33%, the Tories on 32%, Lib Dem on 14% and UKIP on 12%. To put this into context, an opposition party that was on course to win the general election would be on 40% at least.

So a missed opportunity for all the main parties (and I haven’t even mentioned the Lib Dems who would once upon a time have been classified as such). Now all attention turns to the EU referendum on 23 June. The fallout from that vote will have much longer term consequences for British politics.


Results at a glance (source: BBC)

Labour 58 0 1,326 -18
Conservative 38 -1 842 -48
Lib Dem 4 +1 378 +45
Independent 0 0 77 -3
UKIP 0 0 58 +25
Green 0 0 45 -3
Others 0 0 43 +2
No Overall Control 24 0    


Councils changing hands Post-election control
Conservative Labour Lib Dem NOC
Pre-election control Conservative       Elmbridge


Labour       Dudley
Lib Dem        
NOC Peterborough Bristol Watford  


By James Turgoose, Director of London

JBP Staff Member

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