Saturday, May 05, 2007

Local Elections: Backlash after successful elections

Where I live, in Letchworth, is part of a solid Conservative parliamentary constituency. North Hertfordshire has a Conservative majority of nine thousand, it trebled at the last election. However, Conservative strength in the constituency is traditionally a result of a lot of rural or semi-rural areas. Letchworth area council used to be Labour run with some Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives barely getting a look in. That has almost completely reversed over a number of years.

Now, two areas are solid Conservative. Letchworth South East is reasonably safe. Letchworth South West, where I live, got huge majorities this year. It is very, very solid even by the standards of a true-blue constituency. However, the other wards in Letchworth are more problematic.

Letchworth Wilbury had always been Labour. Conservatives who stood there were practically paper candidates. Then last year one of them won. Letchworth Grange is another surprising area for the Conservatives to do well. Finally, Letchworth East has had one of its two councillors as a Conservative for a few years but is generally Labour. All of these were being defended.

We had all-out elections thanks to some boundary changes. These changes strengthened Letchworth Grange and South West but hurt East and Wilbury. In the final result the Conservatives lost the councillors in Letchworth Wilbury and East. In Letchworth Grange they gained a councillor and came close to getting a third and making a clean sweep.

Now, to the point. I don't think this was all about the boundary changes. It looks like there is a serious danger for Conservatives who have succeeded in traditionally Labour areas. If you have surprised people and won a seat you were not expected to win in a previous year you can see a rapid reverse. Labour voters may have assumed their ward was safe and not turned out. They then see that their area is not as safe for Labour as they thought and turn out in far greater numbers.

We could see this happening more often in the future with the Conservatives winning in so many traditionally Labour areas. The new councillors may need to work hard to hold onto their new seats.

1 comment:

Tony said...

I just hope that no Conservative councillor who was elected this week gets complacent. It is essential that they put in the work in their wards to build more support while they are in office.

Not only that, but in councils that elect by thirds, they need to start working now to get ready for the next local elections by engaging with the voters and either communicating the work that has been done, or why a Conservative would be a better person to elect.