Sunday, 7 May 2017

My analysis of 2017 local elections in the UK, part 2-Metro Mayors

The Metropolitan Mayoral elections also showed up some surprising results, particularly in areas thought favourable for Labour, alongside low turnouts. This is not surprising given Britain's general dislike of US-style mayoral systems, and the amount of taxpayers' money being used to fund these positions.

The West Midlands Mayoral election proved to be a critical blow to Labour, since Andy Street of the Conservatives narrowly defeated MEP Sion Simon.  However, he only did so by 6,021 votes in round one and 3,746 votes after 2nd preferences, a margin of less than 1%. The marginal boroughs of Dudley and Walsall, so often contested highly by both Labour and the Conservatives, proved to be decisive in Andy Street's win, as he won both by very substantial margins indeed. In another blow for UKIP, it was the Liberal Democrats who finished third instead of them, even though the only areas of Liberal Democrat support in the West Midlands conurbation are in Solihull and the Yardley area of Birmingham. UKIP saved their deposit despite losing so much of their vote in the tight race between Messrs. Street and Simon, which was particularly telling in the same marginal boroughs of Dudley and Walsall where they did comparatively very well in the 2015 general election. Despite his good campaign, the Green Party's James Burn only managed 4.7%, losing his deposit, although he did manage 3rd in Solihull within the context of the Mayoral election. As for Communist Graham Stevenson, he may have accidentally delivered a Conservative win, although Sion Simon's rather poor on the ground campaign bears greater responsibility for Labour's loss and despite the Communist Party of Britain advocating a vote for Labour in the upcoming general election, the few remaining Communist voters will likely just stay at home.

Another narrow but critical defeat for Labour came in the Tees Valley Mayoral election, which featured a turnout as low as 21.3%. Labour have not been performing well in the Tees Valley area recently if by-election results are anything to go by, and three marginal constituencies (Darlington, Stockton South, and Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland) lie within this area. Labour's loss is clear sign that Jeremy Corbyn's hardline socialist mantra is losing hold of voters far from metropolitan areas, and that UKIP's loss will mainly be the Conservatives' gain, even though UKIP once won over voters from both the Labour and Conservative camps (as well as protest voters from the Liberal Democrats whilst they were in coalition with the Conservatives).

The West of England Mayoral election was another surprising win for the Conservatives and a runner-up finish for Labour by just 4,377 votes, and was the most interesting contest of all by any accounts (except for UKIP, whose candidate, Aaron Foot, lost his deposit and was in no position to win this election given its make-up). Despite this, turnout did not even hit 30% when most county council elections at least touched that. This was one of only two Mayoral elections where the Green Party candidate saved their deposit (the other being Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, helped by Julie Howell's determination and excellent ground campaign), but Darren Hall still only finished fourth even though there is substantial support for the Green Party in Bristol and Bath in particular. Former MP Stephen Williams, meanwhile, despite good odds failed to achieve even second place for the Liberal Democrats, but a 20.2% vote share is nevertheless respectable in the circumstances. Independent John Savage, formerly a Labour candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner, did surprisingly well with 15%-more than half the Conservative vote.

As expected, both the Greater Manchester and Liverpool Regional Mayoral elections provided easy Labour victories, aided by the personal popularity of both candidates (Andy Burnham in Greater Manchester and Steve Rotheram in Liverpool). Andy Burnham carried the vast majority of wards in Greater Manchester, even in Trafford, the only safely Conservative borough in the whole of Greater Manchester, and also in Stockport, the south of which (i.e. Cheadle and Hazel Grove) has only ever been dominated by either the Liberal Democrats or the Conservatives. In both cases, the Conservatives finished a distant second and the Liberal Democrats a distant third. Both Green Party candidates finished fourth and both lost their deposits, although only narrowly in Tom Crone's case. However, both of them received many more votes than UKIP, although nevertheless it is a clear sign that the Greens must do more to reach voters outside the cores of metropolitan areas (i.e. the cities of Liverpool and Manchester itself, where the Green vote was much higher than in the outlying areas of the respective conurbations) if they wish to win more seats and become a more credible force nationally. I have said it before and I will say it again: green politics is for everyone, wherever they are and whoever they are. In the context of Liverpool, TUSC's Roger Bannister lost his deposit but achieved respectable results in Knowsley and Liverpool, and also beat the Women's Equality Party's Tabitha Morton, who did not achieve notable results in any of the boroughs of that region. Britain has shown that it has little if any time for radical feminism of any kind which the WEP preaches in practice, and all the WEP have done in elections so far is detrimentally split the Green vote.

The Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Mayoral election, whose turnout was the highest at 32.9%, was the only one the Liberal Democrats finished second in, which is line with their revival in the villages surrounding Cambridge (and also the town of Huntingdon), and the city of Cambridge itself. The Conservatives won despite James Palmer getting off to a poor start, although UKIP's collapse certainly helped them no end. The Liberal Democrats were ahead on 2nd preferences but this proved not to be nearly enough for victory. This was Labour's only third place finished but Peterborough and Cambridge helped them make up for a real lack of support in the more rural areas and small towns of Cambridgeshire. Even though UKIP lost all of their county council seats in Cambridgeshire the very same day, UKIP's Paul Bullen still finished fourth with 8.0%, UKIP's best result in these Mayoral elections. Julie Howell's preparation and active presence helped her achieve the second best Green result in all the Metro Mayoral elections with 6.3%, showing that potential is high for the Greens in the majority of Cambridgeshire, even outside the city of Cambridge itself. Independent Paul Dawe only achieved 4.6%, losing his deposit, but caused considerable damage to the UKIP vote in the process.

Even though Mayoral elections of all kinds are dependent on personal popularity, tribal voting is very much a feature as well, especially in metropolitan areas. Whether this devolution experiment works for any area remains to be seen.


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