The death knell for UKIP and the resurgence of the natural order
The results of the 2018 local elections have been described in the mainstream media as a return to the status quo – maybe, but the political landscape has changed again in the last 24 hours.
After the so-called ‘political earthquakes’ in 2016 and 2017, the 2018 results suggest a return to the pre-Brexit natural order in local government. So what did we learn from the outcome about the state of the main parties?
It was always going to be a night when the terminal decline of UKIP was again displayed. Their 2017 result, where they lost 145 seats across the country, was essentially repeated in 2018. At the time of writing they have lost 120 seats and secured only 3, but where have all those UKIP votes headed?
The Conservatives should feel reasonably satisfied. As the party of government and considering the disastrous 2017 general election campaign, it was always going to be an anxious time. They were right to be cautious, however they did better than expected in many areas. Notable results in the regions included taking control in Basildon and Peterborough and strengthening their grip in Epping Forest. In London, they fared better than predicted against Labour in retaining control of key Labour targets in Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Wandsworth, as well as taking control of Barnet from No Overall Control. They fared less well however against the Lib Dems in Richmond.
Conversely, Labour should perhaps be concerned. Yes, they have gained seats, but not in the volume expected of the opposition following their 2017 success and after 8 years of Conservative-led Government. They failed to make significant ground outside London, particularly in those authorities where they deployed significant effort, such as Swindon where the Conservatives managed to hold control. Although taking control of Plymouth will be heralded as a success and an indicator of progress, this could be seen as simply a return to the natural order – the seats they secured had been previously won from Labour by UKIP candidates who then defected to the Conservatives.
In the Capital, Labour failed to make a landmark breakthrough in the Conservative boroughs. Was this a reflection of the anti-Semitism row, particularly in Barnet – or does it suggest that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has reached its high-water mark?
Localised issues do of course influence the outcome but the 2018 results and UKIP’s continued collapse indicates that we have seen the start of a swing back towards pre-Brexit politics – for the time being…