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Westlake Legal Group > Local government and local elections

ConHome’s survey. Our panel and the European elections. Three in five Tory members will still vote for the Brexit Party.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-05-07-at-07.54.09 ConHome’s survey. Our panel and the European elections. Three in five Tory members will still vote for the Brexit Party. UKIP ToryDiary Theresa May MP Sir Graham Brady MP Local government and local elections Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Conservatives ConservativeHome Members' Panel Brexit Party Brexit

Note the bigger response this month compared to last month – a consequence not of more or less reader enthusiasm, but of improvements we’ve been able to make to the survey.

Essentially, we have about 1500 responses compared to some 1100.  But the bigger number makes no difference of any significance to the result.

Last month, 62 per cent of the panel said that they would vote for the Brexit Party, and only 23 per cent for the party of which they are actually a member – the Conservatives.

This month, those figures are 61 per cent and 22 per cent.  Party members have apparently made up their mind – and that this survey took place in the aftermath of woeful local election results has made no difference one way or the other.

As we said last month, the Mail on Sunday poll which found that two in five Tory councillors intend to back Nigel Farage’s party adds weight to our finding.

If 40 per cent of councillors plan to do so, it seems possible that 60 per cent of members, whose arguably have less at stake in terms of Party commitment, do so too.

It may be worth running through the reasons that we floated for this dreadful result for the Conservatives.  They are as follows.  First, anger at the postponement of Brexit after it had been promised over 100 times for March 29.

Second, a backlash against Theresa May’s talks with Jeremy Corbyn, which now seem to be nearing a climax, whatever happens.  This has infuriated and baffled many members.  Their view of them will be in line with our illustration right.

Third, the belief that they provide a free hit chance to protest – a free hit.  Fourth, the belief that Nigel Farage provides a respectable pro-Brexit alternative (backing for UKIP in the survey has collapsed).

Finally, the hope that a really bad result might prove to be a trigger for leadership change.  We publish today Andrew Sharpe’s letter confirming an emergency National Convention meeting. And Graham Brady meets with the Prime Minister today.

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Lee Rowley: Killamarsh Conservatism – the reason North East Derbyshire bucked the trend in last week’s elections

Lee Rowley is MP for North East Derbyshire.

Quietly nestled at the top of the North East Derbyshire constituency, close to Sheffield, is Killamarsh. A fiercely independent former pit village of 10,000 people, it rightly takes pride in its industrial heritage. It was here that, half a century back, three pits gave work to thousands of miners every day – my granddad being one of them. The last mine closed but 25 years ago.

As far back as records go, Killamarsh has elected Labour Councillors to everything – county, district and parish councils. Before 2018, we can’t find the last time a red rosette didn’t win, usually by miles. Yet, on Thursday, a political earthquake happened.

Against a difficult national backdrop, the village decided it was time for a change. It didn’t, though, just elect one Conservative – the village went all in. All five district seats were gained from Labour. Eight Conservative Parish Councillors were elected, and with them, control of the Parish Council, too.

And elsewhere in North East Derbyshire, the same thing happened. Next door in Eckington, another parish which had elected Labour forever, three district seats and the Parish Council tumbled. Further west in Dronfield, the Labour Leader of the district council, first elected when I was just three years old, lost his seat. In the south of the district, on the outskirts of Clay Cross, the brother of Dennis Skinner was retired by his electors.

The final tally on the district council: 13 Conservative gains. And, for the first time since the Council was formed in 1973, the Conservatives will have the majority. As someone who grew up in North Derbyshire, the land of the Skinners and the Benns, this is incredible. I am hugely proud of my home area’s willingness to change and grateful for local residents’ trust at such a difficult time.

Since Thursday, I’ve been asked how the team managed to buck the trend in North East Derbyshire on such a terrible night nationally. I’m incredibly proud of them all – residents from across the district who came together, some having never been involved in politics before, to try to change things for the better.

Firstly, the team laid the foundations for this victory many months ago. We went out into local communities, listened and took on board their views. Our Group leader, Cllr Martin Thacker, and his team put together a coherent manifesto and demonstrated they were a real alternative leadership in waiting. We campaigned relentlessly.

Most importantly, we tried to have an honest conversation with our communities: that the issues which frustrated local residents on house building, infrastructure and the council’s failure to listen were ones that were years in the creation and would be years in the remediation. We were upfront that we wouldn’t get everything right if we won, but we would try our hardest. We tried to stay positive and focused, even in the midst of some pretty torrid Labour smears. And, most of all, we gave a vision of where we wanted to take North East Derbyshire and how we can use the next four years to prepare for the challenges and opportunities that we will face together. Residents wanted change. And, when the national wind blew colder in recent months, our long-term involvement with the local community meant our credibility held.

Out of last Thursday might just come the outline of a new opportunity for our party – the same opportunity which saw gains against the national trend in the seats of my great colleagues Eddie Hughes in Walsall and Ben Bradley in Mansfield, too. If the Conservatives are winning pit villages on the border of South Yorkshire on an otherwise terrible night, there might just be something here to consider; a new ‘Killamarsh Conservatism’, if you will. A combination of aspirant, pro-business and pro-change politics, coupled with a relentless focus on the day-to-day concerns of people who work hard, get on with life and don’t spend all their time on Twitter.

Enough of the split-the-difference, milquetoast, managerial mush which has bedevilled our national picture for too long.  A Conservatism which places hard work, aspiration and ambition at the centre of everything, which seeks to protect and enhance quality of life and properly values a sense of community. One that doesn’t pretend there won’t be difficult decisions in the future but who recognises that people are grown-ups who want councils to do some things well, rather than lots of things badly. Most importantly, a new politics which is going to try to do things with people, rather than to them. Something that fuses together conservative principles with a recognition that change is necessary and desirable so long as there is a proper, respectful discussion where people are involved and participate. It’s not a perfect thesis but, we think, there might just be something to it.

There is a note of caution, too. Our beautiful part of the world might have bucked the trend on Thursday but we are under no illusions about the fact that residents lent, rather than gifted, their votes to us. We’ve got to fix some of the problems the last council has left us. We’ve got to do politics differently. And, most importantly, they warned us on the doorstep that they won’t always separate local from national politics.

North East Derbyshire, a 62 per cent Leave constituency, doesn’t suffer fools gladly and its patience is being sorely tested by the national picture at the moment on Brexit.  It will not tolerate that abject failure for much longer.

So this week we celebrated. And, this weekend, we thank the local Labour Party for their service to the district as 30 new councillors are getting to work on their new task. It won’t be easy but we hope it will be worthwhile.

When I return to Westminster on Tuesday, I’m returning with a clear message: Killamarsh voted Conservative last week, and it wants to do so again in the future. Yet it is tired of the old politics which has shredded people’s trust in the last few months. Time to wise up in Westminster. Otherwise, next time, Killamarsh might look elsewhere.

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WATCH: “We should be doing better, and I can’t pretend I’m not disappointed,” Ashworth concedes

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Local elections 4) The minor parties: Greens surge, UKIP collapse, localists and independents thrive

11.30 am

A notable feature of the local elections has been the unusually strong performances for some minor parties, not to mention the sheer variety of them (something perhaps presaged by Newport West by-election). Here are the top lines:

  • The biggest beneficiary by far are the Greens, who at the time of writing have got 48 seats, a net gain of +42. They are likely beneficiaries (along with the Liberal Democrats) of Labour’s failure to make headway.
  • UKIP, by contrast, are having a torrid time of it, with the BBC reporting that at present they hold just 17 seats, a net loss of -54. They have managed to make a few pick-ups in places such as Sunderland, but have been wiped out in their former stronghold in Thurrock.
  • But the biggest surge is in what the BBC classifies as ‘Others’, who currently hold 367 seats – a whopping net gain of +230. With the Tories and Labour having shed between them over 500 council seats, and the Greens and Lib Dems picking up only 350 or so, this represents a significant weakening of the national party pattern in town halls.
  • Unfortunately, the ‘Others’ category can be unhelpfully imprecise at times. The bulk of the councillors in this group are either independents or ‘localists’ – representatives of hyper-local parties. In Bolton, for example, Labour lost a slew of seats to groups such as ‘Horwich and Blackrod First’ and ‘Farnworth and Kearsley First’, a result which the Bolton News reports could lead to the Tories taking control of the council for the first time in four decades. Some larger groups, such as the county-wide Lincolnshire Independents, also did well.
  • But sifting through this group more finely – and thank you in particular to Election Maps UK for so doing – we also find that a perhaps surprising number of very small national parties have gained new town-hall footholds. For example, the continuity Liberal Party picked up a seat in South Kesteven (no word on Patrick O’Flynn’s continuity SDP).
  • Perhaps benefiting from the weakness of UKIP, several right-wing and far-right outfits also managed to gain representation. Democrats & Veterans took two seats in Barnsley, whilst the Veterans & People’s Party and For Britain took a seat apiece. It remains to be seen whether one of these can consolidate these toeholds into a proper local government base in the years ahead, but this is perhaps an early warning of what might be in store for British politics if Brexit remains unresolved.

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The local election results so far. Voters say to the two big parties: a plague on both your Brexit houses.

  • Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-05-03-at-08.20.26 The local election results so far. Voters say to the two big parties: a plague on both your Brexit houses. Walsall UKIP ToryDiary Theresa May MP Local government and local elections Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Conservatives Brexit

(BBC table)

  • The Conservatives have won two councils from No Overall Control, lost six to the Liberal Democrats and 13 to NOC.  They are down 433 councillors as we write.
  • Labour has gained one council from NOC, lost three to NOC and is down 81 councillors.
  • The Liberal Democrats have won two councils from NOC as well as those six from the Tories, and are up 301 councillors.  So they are the main winners so far.
  • There is a modest Green advance (up 38 seats) and a UKIP near-collapse (they are down to 17 seats in total).,

– – –

  • What is emerging so far is a very bad performance by the Conservatives and a bad one for Labour.  It was expected that voters would punish Theresa May.  But they are taking a swipe at Jeremy Corbyn, too.
  • Broadly speaking, the Tories are being punished twice over – by Remain voters in Remain areas and Leave voters in Leave ones.  But there is some evidence that they are faring less poorly among the latter in the midlands and the north.  That’s where Labour is taking a visible hit.  So it is that the Conservatives have taken control of Walsall, but lost a slew of councils in the south.
  • But there’s way to go.  We have only 110 of 259 councils declared.  And it’s important to keep what we know in perspective.  There are uncontested seats, changed boundaries, a mass of independents and new local parties: that makes comparisons with the past difficult.

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Daniel Hannan: May must stand down as Party leader before the European elections

Daniel Hannan is an MEP for South-East England, and a journalist, author and broadcaster. His most recent book is What Next: How to Get the Best from Brexit.

Brace yourselves. We are in for what the Americans call a shellacking. Many blameless council candidates will lose tomorrow for no other reason than the blue on their rosettes. Some experts talk of 500 Conservative councillors mown down, others of 800, others of more. I am mildly more optimistic. If my canvassing in Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire is anything to go by, there are still voters out there who care about the quality of local services. But I’m not going to deny that, even in a relatively benign scenario, we are going to take one hell of a beating.

And then? I have a horrible vision of the Prime Minister responding to the defeat by making one of those statements at her lectern. “I have listened. I have heard what people want. And what people are asking for, up and down the country, is for Parliament to pass my Withdrawal Agreement…”

That’s when the tailspin could begin. In local elections, you can still find people whose vote will be determined by their council’s record on potholes or by the amount of tax it charges. But in European elections?

I made the case for voting Conservative in this column on this site two weeks ago. We need to finish the job. We need to leave the EU in an orderly, cordial and grown-up way. We need to ensure that Jeremy Corbyn does not trampoline from these elections to a general election victory. We need to ensure that Britain continues to thrive as it has done since the referendum, with a record number of people in work and the deficit back to pre-Gordon Brown levels.

But I’m well aware, as I write these things, that many ConervativeHome readers are in no mood to hear them. Several times over the past two weeks, when out with local activists, I have had variants of the following conversation.

“You standing again, Dan?”
“Yep. You voting for me?”
“Well, if it was you, I would, but I can’t bring myself to endorse Theresa May.”
“But it is me. I mean, I’m literally your candidate.”
“Yeah, but you take my point”.

I do. If the Prime Minister were to announce her departure immediately after the local elections, Armaggedon would be averted. We wouldn’t need to have a new party leader in place by 23 May: the fact of a leadership contest being underway would be enough.

I am sorry to be so blunt, but this is now all about timing. Everyone agrees that May must soon step down – including, at least in theory, May herself. The only differences are over timing. Some of the Prime Minister’s supporters imagine her making a dignified farewell speech at the October party conference and then overseeing a leadership contest. Others – especially those backing her various putative successors – hope that she will, as it were, soak up the damage of the European election defeat and then allow an unsullied new leader to take over in June.

Sheesh, guys, there may well be nothing to take over by then. If our party slips into single figures in a national election, its position could become irrecoverable. Those MPs who are gaming the May’s departure date with the succession in mind are taking an unconscionable risk. Why assume that, after a meltdown on the scale that we face, there will be anything left to inherit? As for the idea that our volunteers might give the Prime Minister a warm send-off after watching the needless evisceration of a 200-year-old party, forget it. Already, the Association Chairmen have called an extraordinary meeting for the sole purpose of demanding that the leader stand down.

Like most Conservatives, I barely know May. But I have observed one thing over the 20 years that she has been an MP in my region. She sees herself as a product and champion of the voluntary party. She is visibly relaxed and happy when canvassing at local elections, and has, to her credit, carried on doing so since becoming Prime Minister.

Rather than suffer the indignity of becoming the only Conservative leader to be no-confidenced by party members, I hope she will see that she can salvage her reputation by leaving before the European elections. Staying on would be a tragedy for her, ensuring that her premiership ended in bitterness and recriminations. It would be a tragedy for the Conservative Party, which could very well cease to be viable as a party of government. And, because it would hand power to Corbyn, Diane Abbott and John McDonnell (who on Monday was delightedly promising a socialist revolution), it would be a tragedy for Britain.

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Don’t be spun before Thursday’s results

One of our most venerable pre-election rites consists of the political parties predicting that their results will be worse than they really expect…

…So that they can claim afterwards they did better than anticipated.

Thursday’s will be no different.

Labour will be at it no more or less than the Conservatives – or anyone else – but what looks like the latter’s attempts are easier to spot.

This is because the working assumption all round is that the Party will lose seats (a reasonable enough premis).

Previous experience would therefore suggest that CCHQ is expecting losses of under a thousand.

However, it is very hard to be sure.  And even 800 seats going elsewhere (say) would be a very bad result indeed. By way of comparison, the Conservatives lost over 2000 councillors in 1995 – very much the low local election watermark of modern times for the Party.

Mind you, these parallels can be deceptive.  There are fewer and different seats up for grabs on Thursday than there were in that year. The 2015 elections, the last ones in this particular cycle, saw Tory turnout swelled by the general election, on the same day that the Liberal Democrats took a hammering.  There are boundary changes and new councils: Harry Phibbs refers to Somerset West and Taunton in his guide this morning to blue-yellow marginals.

At any rate, don’t be bounced by the spin.  In cricketing terms, this would be a rather tricky operation.  In political ones, it can be just a bit easier.

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WATCH: Thrasher predicts Conservative losses of “around about 400” council seats

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