With the local elections, mayoral referendums, mayoral elections, it was a busy political week – like having a cup final, several derbies and a top-of-the-table six pointer all on one day. Everyone knows the main stories: Labour and Boris won; voter turnout figures, Tories, Lib Dems, Ken and propestive mayors all around the country lost. These are the top stories from Thursday (or Friday, depending on how you look at it). The following points are things I feel have been somewhat forgotten in the mass of news coverage:
- It was a great night for the Greens. They picked up eleven councillors and in England they started and finished the elections with, behind the big three parties, the highest number of councillors in the areas with council elections being held. They are also now the only party outside the big three to have a seat in the London Assembly, after the BNP lost their seat. They now have the same number of seats (two) as the Lib Dems. Jenny Jones finished third in the London mayoral election (see point three), and John Coyne, standing for the Greens, finished fourth in the Liverpool mayoral election (ahead of the Conservates – see point four). However on a less positive note for the party, in the Salford mayoral election, the Green party candidate Joe O’Neill finished second last. Whilst UKIP poll higher, the Green Party have some claim to be the fourth party in England, having, unlike UKIP, an MP as well. According to this YouGov poll from earlier this week, of the 2010 Lib Dem voters, 8% would now vote for the Greens, a higher percentage than those who would vote for any of the other non-mainstream parties.
- Speaking of UKIP, it was an underwhelming night for them, despite high polling figures. They ended up with the same number of councillors that they started with, while at the same time the Greens, Respect, and the Independent Community and Health Concern party got more councillors elected. It is worth pointing out that the two other parties right of the Conservatives – the BNP and the English Democrats – were both wiped out in the councils where there were elections. In London the UKIP mayoral candidate finished second last, and their Liverpool mayoral candidate finished eighth. However, as with th Greens, Salford was an exception: the UKIP mayoral candidate finished third ahead of the Lib Dems. As I’ve said, I don’t think UKIP pose that much of a threat to the Conservatives, yet given their rise in support surely they could have done better. Is it that they have no local strongholds, and get such a uniform vote that they struggle to win in any particular place?
- The progressive vote in London was still big. Jenny Jones, Brian Paddick and Siobhan Benita, all progressive candidates, finished 3rd, 4th and 5th respectively. They presumably picked up some of the anti-Ken vote. In total, left-wing candidates got 52.74% of the first preference votes.
- Liverpool didn’t have a strong anti-coalition vote; they had a strong anti-right vote. Leaving aside the independant candidate and Jeff Berman of the Liverpool Independant Party (which as far as I can make out is his own party) all the left-wing parties finished above all the right-wing parties. This meant the Tories were beaten by the Liberal party, the Greens and even the far-left TUSC. This may have been predictable, but the rejection of right-wingers in England’s third-biggest city is startling.
- We are still left with a confusing patchwork of directly elected mayors. After this week, Liverpool and Salford have directly elected mayors and Bristol will do so. It seems incredibly bizarre for a few big cities like London, Liverpool and Bristol to have directly elected mayors, along with a few much smaller places like Bedford and Tower Hamlets. This seems messy but I suppose really does show local democracy in action, as it has largely been through a local council decision or through referendums that mayoral elections have been instigated.