The Bylines Podcast has returned to reflect on last month’s local elections. In the current episode, we focus on a couple of key areas and discuss what has changed, why it’s changed, and what it could mean for a future general election.
‘Anyone but the Tories’ in Hertfordshire
The results in Hertfordshire spelled major success for any party that wasn’t Conservative.
As I wrote in my previous article, there were a couple of district councils where the parties were hoping either to increase their presence or to dent the strong Conservative majorities. Key areas were Dacorum, targeted by the Liberal Democrats, and East Hertfordshire, targeted by the Green Party.
The results, however, went beyond what most could have hoped.
Many councils seemed likely to flip to no overall control, but it appeared unlikely that there would be any headline victories here. In the event, things turned out very differently.
The Liberal Democrats had the greatest success here, not only winning Dacorum for the first time in its 49-year history, but increasing their presence in four of the ten councils. The success was so large, Ed Davey celebrated by breaking out the props.
And the Green Party had a success story here too. While not winning a council here, as they did in Mid-Suffolk, they became the biggest party in East Hertfordshire, forming a coalition with the Liberal Democrats and taking control away from the Conservatives for the first time since 1999.
Labour surge ahead in Brighton
Chris Davies chose Brighton, where he used to live, Brighton, has been considered by many a strong Green area. But it had its council flipped from No Overall Control (with the Greens being the one of largest parties) to Labour, for the first time since 2003! The Greens went from 19 councillors to 7 overnight, whereas Labour went from 20 to 38.
Chris speculates that this probably won’t be replicated in a general election, as the people of Brighton and Hove are generally satisfied with Caroline Lucas. However, he says that many people he spoke to from the city brought up dissatisfaction with everything not working, despite Brighton having a high level of council tax.
And looking further ahead…
Across the country, the Green party won 481 seats (an increase of 241), taking control of one council (Mid Suffolk). Labour won 2675 seats (up 537), and took control of 22 new councils. The LibDems, meanwhile, won 1628 seats (up 407), taking control of 12 new councils.
So the 2023 local elections can be seen as a good night for the major parties. Except, of course, the Conservatives, who had predicted losing 1,000 councillors (on top of those they had lost in the 2022 local elections), and in the end lost 1063. But what does this mean for a future general election, to be held in late 2024 or early 2025?
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Next month, the podcast will be looking at Pride Month.