Alex MacDonald and Lee Johnson,
Coming up on the 2nd May are the local elections. The ballot boxes will be held in 35 English councils, including all 27 non-metropolitan county councils and eight unitary authorities, and to a single Welsh unitary authority. The question is: who will triumph and who will fall?
Go back 3 months and it was Labour all the way; no one would hear otherwise. It was as you would expect mid term. In the midst of so called ‘austerity’ any protest party is likely to be flying high; especially when controversial and unwelcome economic policies for a number of Brits are being pushed through regularly. Now though, it’s now mid-April, and Labour are leading in the polls by 7 points: 40 to 33 over the Conservatives; yet exactly one month ago it was 11 points. So what is happening? And which Ed is to blame?
Well, we’re not sure if this change in the polls is due to the good work of the Tories. During Cameron’s premiership, the Conservatives have moved on from traditional Tory thinking on policies such as immigration, the EU, and crime and punishment, (remember the hug-a-hoody?) and moved onto ‘progressive’, modern topics such as gay marriage, and aiming to be the greenest party ever. ‘Hear Hear!’ you might say. And you might be right to do so, as ‘progressive’ might be what you’re after, but that modernising effect is also alienating the Tory loyalists; the sort that might jump aboard the Farage Express – destination ‘Traditional values’.
Against this backdrop we have the rise of UKIP, a party which many might say reflect well the old ‘Thatcherite’ Conservative values; tight pocket fiscal warriors, yet not so hot on the social issues. Nigel Farage himself admits he is a Thatcherite – quite the opposite of Cameron and Osborne’s track record, even if ‘we all are Thatcherites now, Dave – maybe as a means to appeal to the older, frustrated, tribal Tory voter. However, it is certainly dangerous to knock the Tories too hard on the up and coming election field, they were the ones who wrestled with their own image to push through the – socially liberal – gay marriage bill; a move which was very popular with young voters, an area in which UKIP have struggled to succeed.
On the other hand, and perhaps more importantly, dissent is growing towards the continent from British voters. Broad support for less immigration and a growing dislike of the EU persists. There is discord amongst British people as to what the EU actually stands for: what we see in the media is frequent negative portrayals towards the Brussels based superpower. Ripples are growing into waves across the Channel, and many Brits are wondering when the EU’s tsunami disaster will crash on our own doorstep. High unemployment and huge debts are being amassed in Europe, especially in the southern regions and this is making the people of Britain worried, and the people are wondering if Cameron truly is the ‘Thatcherite’ he claims to be because of it. No wonder that UKIP are doing so well in the polls – they are the only real Eurosceptic major party.
Then we have the Liberal Democrats. They have seen some success within the coalition, with some of their manifesto policies being implemented such as raising the tax threshold to £10,000; all good news for your average worker. But against these successes, we have seen the rise in tuition fees, which upset their core vote as it was a key policy in their manifesto for the last election. But even so, many voters see them as a centre-left party that should be standing with Labour (they are only Liberal by name) instead of the Conservatives. However, they are the minority party in the Coalition, and as such it was always quite likely that sacrifices would be made on party policy. But aside from the nitty-gritty of the inside works on how Coalitions work, will care enough to trust them again? If Corby, Rotherham, and other by-elections were a platform to judge from, then the answer would be a defiant ‘no’.
For Labour there is some good news. There is no doubt that at the mid-way point of a five year term, the opposition should be ahead in the polls. However, if you study the stats closely and compare them to years gone by, Labour should be even further ahead. The problem for Miliband and his platoon is that they are seen mostly as a protest party. Why? Well it is because they oppose every reform and change put through on major issues without pushing their alternatives: ‘We need to move away from austerity and move to jobs,’ Miliband once said in PMQs… It is without doubt that many thoughts still linger on Labour’s last 13 year bitter reign, however some may still see Miliband and Co as better than Cameron’s cuts.
So in summary, it is really about these four parties. Bearing in mind that a majority of voters are actually quite tribal I suspect that regardless of the changes we see in Britain, not a lot will change within local Councils. The south with broadly remain Conservative, the north largely Labour. Liberal Democrats will lose some votes and we think that UKIP will pick up a lot of new support. But for us, “none of the above” suits just fine.
Here is what The Backbencher thinks will be the most likely result of the May local elections.