Friday, May 05, 2006

Thoughts from the local elections

I'll update this post as and when tonight thoughts hit me.

00:23 - Tony King has reminded us that on the low turnouts in local elections the level of informedness about local issues amongst those voting is quite high. Would it really be such a good thing to bring the remaining 60%+ of voters who have decided they aren't inspired to have a say and force them to cast votes?

00:27 - Geoff Hoon and John Reid have just demonstrated that at least one is off message about whether or not the Cabinet reshuffle in the morning is official. Hoon is going to Downing Street so probably won't be sacked (he's been so invisible lately that Blair must value highly any Cabinet Minister not generating bad headlines). John Reid has in the past got a new job in almost every successive reshuffle so may actually be trying to deflect speculation. Who honestly wants to be Home Secretary at a time like this?

(My own suggestion is a bit radical. Since a minister who can get a firm hold on a department is needed at the Home Office, and since Blair is always publicly praising Gordon Brown, why not give Brown some all rounded experience in non economic policy by sending him to get the Home Office in order?)

00:35 - On the local news round up for London it's reported that Barking & Dagenham has seen a massive surge in turnout up to about 38%. This could mean a surge in votes for the BNP. Also there were earlier reports that a lot of votes in wards without BNP candidates were spoilt with people writing "BNP" on the ballot paper and there have even been voters complaining about not being able to vote for the BNP.

00:37 - Labour is worried in Tower Hamlets, the home borough of my university. Today I was standing outside a council owned door while a lot of people went in to make marks on provided paper - only this was for exams! The exam hall is just round the corner from the Bethnal Green & Bow Labour Party office and "RESPECT" sent their megaphone car around the streets to broadcast an upbeat message. (I was on the verge of charging out to the queue at the traffic lights to demand that party showed some respect to the students trying to concentrate inside!) We'll see if George Galloway's Big Brother antics have left much impression there.

I just want net gains00:45 - David Dimbleby to Sarah Teather: "At the moment the Conservatives are up fifty [councillors]. You're up three." Teather has declared that she'd be satisfied with "net gains". Is this a reflection of the Lib Dems admitting they're basically just standing still? Do they need to "raise their game"?

00:49 - BBC1 has a box at the bottom of the screen listing results so far - but on my small television screen some results are getting cropped, especially the BNP results.

00:53 - BBC News' results so far has it even worse for Sarah Teather. Currently it shows the Conservatives up fifty-four councillors and the Lib Dems down two. That's with seven hundred and thirty-eight seats declared so far.

The star of Celebrity Big Brother00:58 - A report from Tower Hamlet shows the star of Celebrity Big Brother arriving and his party feeling confident of making gains, as are the Conservatives and Lib Dems. It seems the Labour leader may lose his seat.

(By the way if any of you are wondering why I have nothing to say about Newham it's because the count isn't taking place until the morning. And Epsom & Ewell elects all its councillors at once and the elections there aren't until next year.)

01:10 - Nick Brown, a key ally of Gordon Brown, has just declined on air to say that he thinks Tony Blair an rebuild the damaged Labour Party. There are rumours that a groups of Labour MPs are writing a joint letter calling for Tony Blair to stand down.

01:11 - Conservatives hold Reigate & Banstead and Tandridge, the two Surrey councils to the east of Epsom & Ewell.

01:12 - I've just noticed that Kingston-Upon-Hull has stayed No Overall Control with the Lib Dems gaining four seats from other parties. Labour have lost only two seats in John Prescott's territory - but I'm not sure how many of the third of seats up for election they were defending.

01:16 - The London results aren't coming in just yet but there are reports the Lib Dems have lost control of Islington. They are defending thirty-six of the forty-eight seats there. Sarah Teather, a former Islington councillor, has let slip on air that there may be problems in the local party there but doesn't really know, despite this being repeatedly trumpeted as a Lib Dem flagship council. Are the Lib Dems more The Muppets Show or Clueless?

01:23 - Jeremy Vine is talking us through polls about the party standings and how David Cameron is perceived. 39% of voters think he is "tough" but Michael Howard at the equivalent stage had a 49% rating and apparently this is something Cameron has to make up. How can anyone compete here with the toughest Home Secretary since Jix?

01:29 - I've just been asked who was "Jix". The answer is Sir William Joynson-Hicks, Home Secretary in Stanley Baldwin's second government (1924-1929). "Jix", as he was popularly known, was a Home Secretary who could make Michael Howard's record look soft. He was a scourge of the roaring twenties, a fierce opponent of attempts to change the Prayer Book and also the man responsible for giving universal suffrage to women in the UK when he made a pledge that the government would do so without internal discussions and bound Baldwin into upholding the pledge. For more information, please see the Wikipedia article on him.

01:34 - Reports from Camden suggest Labour is facing loss for the first time in thirty-eight years. The Gospel Oak ward, where the Labour leader has his seat, may fall to the Conservatives despite being two-thirds council housing.

01:36 - Croydon looks uncertain. This borough is the strongest Conservative case for proportional representation - since 1994 Labour has won the council despite the Conservatives winning the popular vote (but as a supporter of first past the post I can't really complain). It's possible Labour have clung on in the north of the borough with a ferocious campaign.

01:37 - The current prediction for the BNP in Barking & Dagenham is eight to ten seats. And the latest reports suggest a lot of would-be BNP voters ripping up their papers in anger at not finding a candidate on the ballot paper and people ringing up the council to ask if they can vote BNP without a candidate (suggesting that the BNP is reaching out to people who don't normally vote in local elections).

01:56 - It got blocked out a bit by discussions but Crawley has just gone from Labour to Conservative control after over thirty years. A one seat Labour majority was converted into a one seat Conservative majority after a dead heat in the polls and drawing lots. People are asking if this is the fairest way to settle a tie but would it really be practical to rerun the entire election in that ward?

02:04 - The first London result is in. And it's...

Westminster. Conservatives hold. Let's hope the next borough to declare is an exciting one.

02:05 - The Greens have managed to get someone on the BBC for the first time tonight. Caroline Lucas is trying to talk up the results but so far they've only made a net gain of one councillor. She's also turning into a Lib Dem by falling back on blaming the electoral system for everything.

02:06 - Labour are currently riding a net loss of 115 seats with many to come.

02:08 - Another London result and this one is just as exciting. Wandsworth - Conservative hold.

02:18 - Labour lose Oldham. There are no BNP councillors. But will a No Overall Control council be able to deliver what the people need or will the BNP have more local issues to exploit next time?

02:19 - Another Surrey result - Conservatives gain Mole Valley, where I went to school for six years.

02:29 - A couple of small London results - the Labour leader on Havering council has lost his seat. In Hammersmith & Fulham the Conservatives have gained three seats in the first declared result, ousting former Labour MP, Ian Coleman from the council.

02:32 - Another London result that just oodles with excitement. Kensington & Chelsea - Conservatives hold.

02:39 - Declarations from Barking & Dagenham so far give the BNP eight seats. Margaret Hodge's comments last month have been attacked by many Labour activists and campaigners. Hodge is being interviewed on BBC1 now and trying to justify her comments, but I'm not tipping her to enter the Cabinet in the reshuffle.

02:52 - Stephen Twigg and Oona King have popped up on BBC1 - it's like old MPs reunited! The BBC are reporting rumours that Labour has gained Enfield but Twigg (famously once and equally famously no longer MP for Enfield Southgate) is sceptical.

02:56 - The Greens are now up seven, whilst the BNP are up twelve. UKIP have held one seat so far.

02:58 - BBC1 has a technical fault and goes off air midway through Tony King explaining that the two party system is breaking down. I'm not sure if the two are connected...

03:12 - Flicking over to Sky it seems the BNP in Barking & Dagenham are up to 11. There are also reports of Harrow going to "Other" but everyone's treating this as an error and it's being treated as a Conserative gain.

03:18 - Conservatives gain Bexley, smashing Labour to just nine seats.

03:19 - BBC1 is back on air with the election programme, albeit being fed from the London focused branch in the City.

03:20 - Is it me or is that Michael Portillo on BBC1 saying encouraging things about the current Conservative position for the first time in years?

03:22 - The London Borough of Sutton has stayed Liberal Democrat but their majority is heavily slashed ten, whilst the Labour group is wiped out.

03:29 - The Labour leader of Croydon, Tony Newman, has conceded defeat and is blaming "ten days of negative headlines" for the defeat. However there was also the local issue of massive increases in council tax. Oh and the Lib Dem group on the council has been wiped out.

03:31 - A spellcheck on this blog has a problem with "Dimbleby" and nominates "thimbleful" instead!

03:32 - It's reported that Labour has lost Lewisham to No Overall Control. However this is a borough with an elected Mayor so the party balance on the council is not the only key factor here.

03:38 - Camden is looking like another Labour loss, with the Lib Dems and Greens gaining seats. Frank Dobson (whose seat is here) is again blaming national headlines, along with the impact of the NHS deficits on the local hospitals and other national government policies coming out badly locally. A reshuffle - "changing the ship's officers on The Titanic" and he's calling for Blair to go.

03:40 - Another London result - a Breaking News flash says Labour have lost Merton.

03:44 - More London results. Merton has gone No Overall Control. Hillingdon has been gained by the Conservatives. There are no further rumours on Enfield going Labour. Hammersmith & Fulham looks likely to go Conservative, with the Labour leader conceding defeat.

03:49 - Labour are currently 189 councillors down. So just how bad will they concede tonight has been?

Perhaps he should have stayed quiet03:53 - I've just been informed that the Conservatives have gained Winchester from the Lib Dems. Perhaps Mark Oaten should not have reminded everyone of the scandal.

03:55 - The Conservatives have gained Ealing. Many say "As goes Ealing, so goes the country" - it nearly always elects whoever wins the next election. Personally I think the next election will only be in the bag when the voters put it there.

03:58 - Power has been restored in Westminster and so David Dimbleby is back.

04:05 - The gaphics are starting to appear in the studio. The Conservatives are currently up 204, Labour down 205. So how much more bad news is piling up for Labour?

04:07 - The projected national share of the vote is Conservative 40%, Lib Dem 27%, Labour 26%, Others 7%.

04:19 - Conservatives hold Redbridge. Apart from in the south west it's looking like London will have a nice blue rim at the end of these results.

04:25 - Nick Griffin is being interviewed on BBC1 right now. He's denying BNP voters care about mixed marriages or mixed sexual partners and that it isn't a matter for legislation, despite what is on the BNP website. Amongst other policies he's explaining to David Dimbleby he's trying to justify a one menu fits all policy for school dinners as being for the sake of anoxeric young girls! Does anyone even in the BNP think such rubbish sound convincing, let along actually believe it?

04:33 - Just spotted another London result - Conservatives hold Bromley. The rim grows. And the Croydon gain is now confirmed.

04:34 - The first result from Tower Hamlets is in - the Lib Dems have lost three seats to Labour! This is one of the few shifts none of the commentators expected. My immediate reaction is that Labour are gaining votes amongst certain communities in Tower Hamlets as a reaction against RESPECT and as an attempt to shore them up. A similar effect was visible in the General Election.

04:38 - Looking at the map of London on the BBC's website the current state of play is:

Conservative councils - 11 (Hillingdon, Harrow, Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, Westminster, Redbridge, Wandsworth, Croydon, Bromley, Bexley)

Labour - 1 (Haringey)

Lib Dems - 1 (Sutton)

No Overall Control - 3 (Islington, Merton, Lewisham)

Still to declare: 16 (Brent, Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets, Newham, Barking & Dagenham, Havering, Hounslow, Richmond upon Thames, Kingston upon Thames, Lambeth, Southwark, Greenwich)

No elections - City of London

04:49 - One of the points being picked up on now on BBC1 is that Labour is doing especially badly amongst the affluent middle classes (look in particular at the London map). Another point is that, as several emailers have pointed out, a lot of Labour politicians are talking about "listening to the people" but never seem to pick up the message of "go away".

04:53 - There's clearly an appetite for change in the government. Is simply dumping a few ministers, moving John Reid to yet another new job and promoting a few Ministers of State to the Cabinet (if that's possible) the kind of change both the people and the Labour Party want?

04:56 - Kingston upon Thames is held by the Lib Dems, losing five seats, whilst Labour lose one seat and the Conservatives gain six seats. The Lib Dem majority is now just two.

05:00 - David Dimbleby notes the Press Association reports that East London Labour chiefs are considering discipling Margaret Hodge for her comments publicising the BNP.

05:01 - The Lib Dems have gained Richmond upon Thames.

05:05 - Nick Robinson is predicting that although John Prescott will retain the title "Deputy Prime Minister", he will lose the department currently known as the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

05:07 - I've just noted on that the Conservatives now have a majority of councillors in the half of the London Borough of Sutton that makes up the Sutton & Cheam parliamentary seat. Meanwhile in the other half, the Carshalton & Wallington seat, a poster wrote:

As outgoing Labour Group Leader, Andrew Theobald said tonight - congratulations to Conservative Ken Andrew for becoming Carshalton & Wallington MP-elect
So could the next general election see south west London ending the yellow days?

05:11 - It's now confirmed that Camden has gone from Labour to No Overall Control. However it seems Lambeth has gone the other way.

05:13 - David Campbell Bannerman, great nephew of the former Liberal Prime Minister and current chair of UKIP, has become the first UKIPer I've seen in the media all night. UKIP have been invisible in these elections and a single issue party offers nothing in terms of how to run town halls.

05:20 - More from Tower Hamlets. The Conservatives have gained six seats from Labour. None of the declared results so far have seen anyone hold their seats. The count is taking a long time because of all the accusations of electoral fraud have led to election officials proceeding very slowly.

05:23 - Enfield stays Conservative, Waltham Forest stays No Overall Control (and because a rim stain).

05:31 - BBC1's results have come to a close so I'm going to get some kip. Later we'll find out about the rest of the results, especially Newham and Tower Hamlets.


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