Newbury Liberal Democrat Paul Walter has produced a brilliant summary and analysis of the local elections results which I will reproduce here. Part 1 below looks at the Conservatives and Part 2 (which I will post tomorrow) looks at the Liberal Democrats.
Their national share of the vote was only two percentage points more than that achieved when Michael Howard led the party in 2004, which was followed one year later by the Conservatives losing the general election with 158 seats less than Labour.
The BBC’s Nick Robinson, himself a former Conservative, has said that there is no truth in the assumption that the Conservative party have demonstrated a broadening of their appeal. He explains that they have merely consolidated in their heartlands in the South, with no reaching out to broader areas of voters. Robinson says that “Traditional Conservative voters are simply no longer embarrassed to vote for their party.”
Robinson’s interpretation is borne out by the BBC’s estimate that the Conservatives had a swing of 4% to them across the South, but they remained static in terms of votes cast across the north of England.
This lack of even the beginnings of a breakthrough is further supported by the fact that there is still not a single Conservative councillor in Manchester, Liverpool or Newcastle. The Conservatives made no gains in Sheffield where they have only two councillors. The Liberal Democrats have 36 councillors on Sheffield City Council, as well as 38 in Manchester, 47 in Newcastle and 59 in Liverpool. The Conservatives have only 2 councillors in Hull, where the Liberal Democrats have 22.
It is remarkable that there were no Conservative councillors elected in Liverpool, bearing mind that David Cameron took his whole shadow cabinet there shortly before the elections, amidst much publicity. Likewise, the Tories held their Spring Conference in Manchester, with an identical flat-lining amongst their public support there.
There are also no Conservative councillors in Oxford.
The Conservatives lost their last councillor on Cambridge City Council, so that there are now no Conservative councillors in our two great University cities.
In London, most of the Conservative gains were in West London, traditional Conservative territory – not in the East of the capital, where the Liberal Democrats did very well.