Following the local elections on Thursday, the BBC have published the nations results on this website page which provide a helpful comparison with the previous similar elections in each area. There are a few slightly unclear areas that have gone through boundary changes in the last few years such as Wealden (losing 10 seats) but overall the data is very simple to understand and clearly indicates a significant change across the region I live and work in comprising the four County Council areas of Kent, Surrey, East and West Sussex. A friend of mine who also lives and works in the same region posted on facebook this morning the following comment “1 million marchers from the far corners of the UK, 6 million signatories, 61% polls, 1250 seats lost and NONE going to labour and both leaders say it shows the people just want to get on with brexit. This is Orwellian and cannot be allowed to happen” I agree with him that the results across the nation and in particular across our region clearly show that the voters desire for Brexit has dropped away very significantly which is precisely why a fresh referendum is now vital if our Government is capable of understanding why they have lost so much support.
However one minor part of his analysis is not correct as our region has seen a significant gain for Labour with an overall growth from 138 seats to 218 (58%) including the taking over of Gravesham Borough Council where they increased their Councillors by 3 and the Tories lost 5 seats. There are other places such as Thanet, Horsham and Worthing where Labour have seen a significant increase in the number of their Council seats. The overall figures show that the Tories who previously held 1069 seats across the region have lost 304 in net terms, although even they gained some in settings such as Thanet where previously UKIP ran the Council with 33 of the seats (59%) all of which they lost. The Tories gained 7 of the 33 seats while Labour gained 16, Independents 7 and the Greens 3. Along with the Tories regional loss of 28% seats and the UKIP loss of 60 seats (-94%) the Liberal Democrats have gained 120 seats (93%) including in Mole Valley in Surrey where 9 additional seats at the expense of the Conservatives gave them control of the Council. The Independents and Residential Associations have gained 112 seats (93%) and the Green Party an increase in 52 seats (306%).
Another way of looking at this is that across our region there are 35 District and Borough Councils, many of which follow a similar geography to the MPs and two Unitary Authorities (Medway along with Brighton and Hove). The two Unitaries cover the same territory as 6 MPs and the 35 other Councils between them cover the same area as 38 MPs. Of the 37 Councils only 35 were involved in the elections last week of which seven saw no meaningful change including Dover which actually saw a nominal increase in the Conservative group and a reduction in the Labour group. Of the other Councils, nine which were Conservative led now have a No Overall Control arrangement including two in Surrey (Guildford and Waverley) which saw more than 50% of the Council seats which had been Conservative being replaced with members of other parties or independents and sixteen Councils which saw a significant reduction in the Conservative majority. These include Horsham and Mid Sussex in Sussex, Tunbridge Wells and Ashford in Kent and Spelthorne and Surrey Heath in Surrey.
These significant changes should be raising thoughts in the minds of most of the 44 MPs across our region 39 (88%) of which are currently Tories and the remaining 5 consisting of three Labour, one Green and one ex-Lib Dem MP. By comparison 27 (79%) of the Councils were Tory led until Thursday and now only 17 (50%) are Tory led. The other matter which raises questions about the next General Election is that despite the end result in terms of MP numbers, at the last election only 55% of voters in the region voted Tory and 29% voted Labour. The Lib Dems received 10% of the votes and the Greens a mere 3.3%. Clearly the Labour Party and Conservative Party who currently dominate our democratic arrangements have no intention of changing the system as Labour benefit from the same set up in other regions just as much as the Tories benefit in our region. However the voters in all regions don’t benefit from this broken system and given the impact on our local government elections there are some real challenges that lie ahead for both parties, whilst voters must call for a major reform of the way their votes get treated!