Dive into the 2019 UK local election results with us. Who were the big winners and losers of England’s local election night?
Over 8,000 council seats were up for grabs on May 2nd, 2019, at a time in which Britain is in serious political turmoil. The stakes were high for several parties involved in the proceedings, but perhaps none higher than those for the Conservatives. Not only are the Tories the leading party defending seats in the local elections, but they are also Britain’s government. Some, however, would argue that “government” is a term to be used loosely.
Theresa May, whose premiership is supposed to end soon but nobody quite knows when, needed a not-so-bad night, as if she required even more difficulty. The main opposition Labour Party figured that the Tories would have a bad night, and that they would be the main source of prosperity. Did that happen for either major party?
As they would discover, neither got what they wanted.
2019 UK Local Election Results: The Totals
Stuck muddled in Brexit, the Conservatives lost over 1,300 council seats compared to last year and 44 councils, their worst result since 1995.1 That was just two years before the Conservatives were swept out in a Labour landslide, though nobody mistakes Jeremy Corbyn for Tony Blair.
Labour was not, however, the primary beneficiary of the Tory meltdown. Corbyn’s party suffered a net loss of six councils and 82 seats.
The Liberal Democrats turned out to be the big winners of local election night. They gained control of ten new councils and added just over 700 councillors to their collection, more than doubling their prior total.
Some other minor parties also experienced a rising tide thanks to the Conservative downfall. The Green Party gained 194 council seats while the Residents’ Association increased by 49. Independents and other various minor parties gained over 600 seats and the independents also netted two new council controls. As for the UK Independence Party, they saw a shearing away by other forces. Just 31 UKIP councillors were elected across England on Thursday, a drop of 145.
2019 UK Local Election Results: Notable Councils
Most of the Conservatives’ council losses were to No Overall Control, or the council equivalent of a hung parliament. Labour did drop a handful to that category as well.
Among the Metropolitan Boroughs, Labour lost majority control of Wirral, but gained a majority in Trafford and Calderdale. Labour held their voting control together in the vast majority of them.
Elsewhere, the Tories took heavy losses. Arun, Basildon, Folkestone & Hythe, Herefordshire, North Somerset, Tendring, and Warwick were among the Tory losses to NOC. Meanwhile, there were others in which Conservative council majorities were supplanted by other parties. For example, Bath & North East Somerset (Lib Dem), Cotswold (Lib Dem), East Devon (Ind), Hinckley & Bosworth (Lib Dem), and Uttlesford (Residents’ Association) were prior Tory councils won outright by others.
Labour also gained Gravesham and High Peak, the latter of which was taken off of the Conservatives.
Though Labour held it with ease, Sunderland, the first to race through the ballot papers, was a bad table-setter for Corbyn’s party. With an unpopular council there, Labour lost 12 seats, with the Tories, Lib Dems, Greens, and UKIP all gaining. Hartlepool fell from Labour to NOC, with independents coming just one seat short of majority control.
2019 UK Local Election Results: Questions and Answers
Was this a bad election for the Conservatives?
Without a doubt, yes. This was their worst in over 20 years and it still could have gone worse. It was not until the early morning hours in England on Friday that the losses accelerated. They gave back solid ground in the south of England, which is traditional blue territory. To the surprise of some, they made a few notable gains in the north.
Did Labour also have a bad election, considering they lost seats?
This is tougher to answer. Labour expected gains in the hundreds to send a clear signal throughout British politics that they mean business. Those gains never came, though they did have some good results here and there. They were overshadowed by the Lib Dems as a result of Brexit.2 They lost one of their key figures, Sir Tony Robinson, as a direct result.3
Compared to the Conservatives, they did not have a bad local election at all. However, compared to their own expectations, it was nowhere near what was billed. That Labour took a net loss in councillors despite the Conservatives having a terrible local election night can be construed as a vote of non-confidence in them as well. By no means was their election as bad as what the Tories experienced, but expectations were set and not met.
What can be read into the Liberal Democrats’ rise?
The Lib Dems are a staunch anti-Brexit party; this they could not make more clear. They are also very much on the outside of the political process in Parliament, holding just 11 seats out of 650. The Change UK splinter group, otherwise known as The Independent Group, has the same number of seats that they do. Your everyday Brexit political rollercoaster does not involve them these days, except as they cry out from the cheap seats. It can therefore be deduced that the Lib Dems’ success was a protest vote against both the Conservatives and Labour.
You bet the Lib Dems will attempt to couch this as a resurgence for their party and a return to relevance. Notable political analyst John Curtice called it a protest vote, suggesting that they have not been a “party of protest” ever since their coalition government and subsequent collapse, but that may be coming back.4
Whatever the case, they will take it.
How does this set up the upcoming European Parliament elections?
You mean the elections to a parliament from which Britain is going to withdraw at some point? Yes, those.
Note well that the 2019 UK local elections did not feature UKIP, the new Brexit Party, or Change UK to any serious degree. The EU elections will. A number of polls suggest the Conservatives might score in the teens in the popular vote, in what could be a volatile result. What makes that possibility interesting is that it’s in its in large part a protest vote. Some leavers will vote Brexit or UKIP to tell the European Union and the Tory government what they think. Some remainers will vote Lib Dem or Change UK to stick it to the other guys. That total vote is going to dilute.
The advance notice takeaway for the May 23rd EU vote in Britain is that the Conservatives will likely suffer there, too.
1: Local elections 2019: Tories lose more than 1,200 seats in worst performance since 1995 (The Telegraph, 3 May 2019)
2: What do the local elections tell Labour? There are no easy Brexit solutions (Owen Jones, The Guardian, 3 May 2019)
3: Sir Tony Robinson quits Labour over Brexit and leadership (BBC News, 3 May 2019)
4: Local election results 2019 (Albert Evans, iNews, 3 May 2019)