The 2023 local elections have come and gone, and the results have been analyzed. Councils and wards have been won and lost and many people have lost part of their livelihoods and some have gained new responsibility in their community. The Conservatives were the biggest losses, more so than even their expectation management had thought, Labour did well, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens overperformed. The question is though, what does this actually mean?
Labour majority expected on this result
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Though importantly, Sky used their projections to state this would mean a hung Parliament in terms of the vote by vote results. In a scenario where this was a general election, this would in reality mean a majority, likely between 340-355 -though don’t quote me on that. This is because of factors where Labour are performing very well in Scotland in the polls, and could see over 20 seats gained as the majorities of the SNP are not massively hard to catch, especially in the Glasgow area. Moreover, Wales polls are suggesting most of the Conservatives seats that have been slowly gained since their wipeout in 1997 will go back to Labour, which could give them a haul of over 10 seats with the current boundaries. Though Sky put them at 298, the added seats would most definitely put them in a position of a majority in best case scenarios.
Looking at England, the most important elements of this election are that the Liberal Democrats and the Greens overperformed expectations. Out of all the gains that took place in this election, Labour only gained 41.5%; the Liberal Democrats took 31.5% and the Greens gained 18.6%. This shows the extent of the lack of dominance that Labour had in these elections. This would not happen in a general election. Many Green Party and Liberal Democrat voters will end up voting Labour in a general election on the basis of getting out the Tories. Therefore, we can expect in places such as Watford, an area dominated by the Liberal Democrats, will vote Labour to get out their Conservative MP. This will happen the other way around in some areas; Labour voters will vote Lib Dem in places like Cheadle to get rid of their Conservative MP. Therefore, we can suppose that in a general election scenario, Labour will likely make enough gains to get a majority, and one they can be comfortable with in Parliament
The issue with this though, is that it’s likely this will be a soft vote. “Get the Tories out” is an important and effective method, but much like “Get Brexit Done”, it likely won’t make voters stick with them in the long term after the aim is achieved. Many on the left are disenfranchised with Labour, and many hardcore remainers are frustrated over Labour’s lack of desire to campaign to overturn the Brexit deal. Though these people will of course accept the idea of rejoining the single market, Labour’s undefined idea of what “making Brexit work” means has turned some voters off, which may haunt the Labour Party long-term if they don’t hold onto the voters. Of course in government they won’t have the issue of people not knowing what they stand for, but they will have to delicately balance how to go forward in ensuring they can keep their voters who only lent them their votes.
The Conservative conundrum
Once again in the cycle of local elections, they have lost over 1,000 councillors. They have lost their heartlands in the home counties and Anglia, like in Hertfordshire, Suffolk and Lincolnshire. Some of this is down to NIMBYism, as even I in my local area experienced campaigns from the Liberal Democrats where they campaigned on not building houses and protecting the Green Belt. Regardless though, the Conservatives are losing out their main bases. In the future, the main foundation of the election was the south, with places such as Surrey, Oxfordshire, and the Sussexes being firmly Conservative, yet despite that, many of the areas which have been traditionally Conservative are changing over frustrations over Brexit, sleaze, and lack of economic performance on the government’s part.
The last election, many claim, was the Brexit election, where leavers and remainers who just wanted something to happen voted Conservative, and somehow the Conservatives have managed to make both of these bases annoyed at their governmental performance and lack of stability. Not too long ago, I put out a piece discussing how they could perhaps make a way back, as polls saw them clawing their way back. I discussed how in an election that would close even more. These are all things I stand behind, but what we saw was a real lack of desire for voters to come out and vote Conservative, something which could offset that. These are worrying times for the Conservatives, and though they could rally people behind the usual issues the Conservatives talk about – immigration and the SNP to name a couple – but I’m not 100% convinced that if they do not hit the targets they want too, that after 13 years, it will actually motivate Conservative voters to vote. Something different has to happen.
Why did people vote Liberal Democrat?
A while ago I pondered what the Liberal Democrat identity would be post Brexit. Though of course many associate them with being pro-EU, the main basis appears to be not being Labour or Conservative. Neither main party appears to have a major support when it comes to leaders, or even really the party itself appears to be massively popular on the merit of people overly loving them. What we saw, I think, is a general disapproval of voters who decided that they couldn’t give their approval to either main party and then decided to vote for the Liberal Democrats as a protest vote. Though this would count for all their support, from my understanding, the party has reformed into its pre-1997 identity as the main alternative if you don’t like either main party.
This will likely have short-term benefits, but it in situations like this and by-elections, as in a general, the likely “get the Tories out” will deplete their vote in many areas where they gained, likely in Hertfordshire for example. However it will give them sizeable gains in the west country, pocket seats in the Sussex counties and Surrey, where in a general they appear to be targeting. However, I believe long-term they need to carve themselves a new identity. As long as the two main parties are down they will prosper, but as soon as that changes, they could go back into near-oblivion.
The Greens could see success if Labour wins
The Greens were successful for many of the same reasons. Many disgruntled Labour supporters on the left went there. Surprisingly for most, some Conservatives actually find the Greens a good alternative despite them arguably being more left-wing than Labour, but their more fierce opposition to many of the most controversial Tory policies likely is an incentivizer to any disgruntled Conservative who wants to see their frustrated view of the government heard as loudly as possible without giving any other party the feeling their actually winning their support.
This is like the Lib Dems; they will have short term gains but in a general election, the Greens will struggle to keep their success, though they may see increases in the popular vote. For this to change, they actually need a Labour government which will let down the people and give them a platform to be the left-wing party to oppose Labour, much like Kennedy for the Lib Dems, and then gain support in Labour areas, like they already somewhat do in Bristol. They could use anti-Labour momentum to gain support in that scenario. However with the “get out the Tories out” vote being the prominent source of change in voting, the Greens will have to play their part and setup voters to consider them for the 2029 election as an alternative to Labour to reap massive success and build from these local election triumphs.