2021 May Local and Regional Elections UK

Big Boris. After winning the by election. Johnson visited Hartlepool and stood in front of a huge inflatable blimp of himself- there are few politicians who would have the confidence in their own persona to do this. A local young man cycled up to take a look and declared 'It's Big Boris. -Campion'. Johnson is by most accounts disorganised, chaotic, morally questionable (dishonest) and uninterested in detail (lazy) but he is a big personality and may become the 'good-time' PM as lock down ends and the economy takes off in a splurge of hedonistic spending. In the world of media image and sound bites he may be the man of the moment. -poor Keir.

Conservatives gain in local elections & win a by-election in Hartlepool

Voters often use local elections to give governments a kicking. Yet it is the Conservatives that have prospered in the English local council votes. The government doing this well in local elections is unusual. Why has it happened?

Short term influences on voting

'Events dear boy, events' Harold Macmillan's famous warning to governments can work both ways. While the Conservative government elected in 2019 has not handled the Covid pandemic well, the UK has one of the worst infection and death figure in the world; the vaccine programme has been a great success. It may be ironic that the NHS has delivered the Conservative governments best headlines but it appears that being the incumbent government was great advantage in these elections as the vaccine and the prospect of good times returning created a feel good factor which helped the Scots SNP government and the Welsh Labour governments to achieve good results.

Maybe politics is more local in the UK than we think. It has generally be argued that in the UK people vote in by elections and local elections according to the perceived success or failure of the government- this is unlike the USA where loyalty to a candidate (name recognition) and local issues are seen as much more significant. But it seems that voters in Hartlepool had a poor view of their years of Labour local government. Northern Conservative Mayors and MPs have been making big promises to improve infrastructure. e.g Conservative Ben Houchen was been re-elected as Tees Valley Mayor in a landslide victory he supported the survival and development of Tees Airport, jobs and investment policies.

Has the Conservative Party has changed direction? It remains to be seen how far the Johnson government will follow through on their levelling up agenda but he emphasis on infrastructure such as HS2 and assertions of 'One Nation' Toryism are very different in tone form the Cameron/Osbourne years of 'austerity,. It has been suggested that Keynesian economics and big government are back in fashion in the UK and USA. Rishi Sunak responded to the Covid Crisis with levels of spending unhear of in peacetime- very much in the Keynesian manner. This leaves Labour uncertain how to respond and voters unclear on the advantages of a Labour government.

More evidence of a de-alignment and realignment in voting behaviour in the UK. The Labour Party lost Hartlepool which they had held for 60 years. Tradition working class support went to the Conservatives as it had in the 'Red Wall' seats in the 2019 Election. Although many voters complained of being taken for granted and a lack of clear policies from Keir Starmer, the voters who switched to the Conservatives from Labour were also the voters who had supported leave in the referendum. It hay be that there is still a feeling of grievance for the perception that souhern middle class Labour saw working class leave supporters as too stupid to understand the advantages of the EU or racist. The Labour candidate in Hartlepool was on record as saying vote leave had been a mistake. The divide of leave supporters voting Conservative and remain turning to Labour was seen in other areas of the country with London and some southing councils but only Cambridgeshire, the Isle of Wight and Tunbridge Wells went form Conservative control to no overall control. In pro-Remain places which last voted in 2017, there was a swing to Labour of three points. In Leave areas there was a two-point move in the Conservatives' direction. This is more evidence for class dealignment

The end of the union? In Scotland, the SNP held on to power for an historic fourth term, but fell just one seat short of an overall majority.

That means, together with the Scottish Greens, there is now a majority of 15 in favour of independence in the Scottish Parliament.

In Scotland, people have two votes - one for a constituency MSP, and another for a regional ballot, where additional MSPs are allocated from party lists depending on how many votes the parties get.

In the constituency vote 49.0% backed pro-independence parties, and in the list vote it was 50.1%. So Scotland is evenly divided on independence. The SNP will push for another referendum in two years. Tony Blair in a BBC interview remarked that devolution had not worked to end the move towards independence in Scotland. Although the decline of Plaid Cymru in Wales suggests that nationalism may be losing its appeal there.

Labour is still the party of the big cities. Labour supporters can look to for positives in the mayoral elections in some of England's biggest city regions. Labour's success here gives an idea where their new heartlands might be, as the political map is still being redrawn following the Brexit vote of 2016. Sadiq Khan won again in London, from second preference votes after a first round that was closer than expected. Tory candidate Shaun Bailey came second. Labour is the party of urban, diverse and younger communities.

Keir Starmer moves the party away from Corbynism. The day after the poor result in the elections, Starmer removed the Deputy Leader Angela from her role as party chair and sacked his shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds who became the new Labour Party's chair - replacing deputy leader Angela Rayner. Ms Rayner will instead replace Rachel Reeves in shadowing Michael Gove at the Cabinet Office, as Ms Reeves is promoted to the shadow chancellor role. As in much of its history Labour will be at war with itself as the left socialist Corbynistas urge radical policies and the social democrat pragmatists urge a move to the centre which prove so successful for New Labour under Tony Blair.