U.K. ‘SUPER THURSDAY’ ELECTIONS: Brits, through their local and regional elections quite clearly said that they do not want a revolution, says Urszula Roman-Kamphaus, expert on Europe.
Last Thursday UK voters went to polls to choose their local and regional representatives. And it would not probably be the most important piece of news of the day if not the context in which U.K. ‘Super Thursday’, as journalists called it, took place. Six years under the Conservative government and seven weeks before the historical vote on continued EU membership, the elections for councils and assemblies in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland acquire a completely different meaning.
It seems that Brits do not want a revolution
U.K. ‘Super Thursday’ Elections took place for the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly of Wales, Northern Ireland Assembly and for 124 councils in England. New mayors were also elected in Bristol, Liverpool and Salford, with UK parliamentary by-elections held in Ogmore and Sheffield Brightside. Additionally, in London, the Greater London Assembly has been elected and a successor to the capital’s mayor Boris Johnson, who has run City Hall since 2008.
In total, 2,747 seats in English councils were up for grabs. The majority of the seats were last contested in 2012.
In Scotland, the SNP (Scottish National Party) has been in power in Scotland since 2007, while Labour has run the Welsh government since 1999. There was also a stable power-sharing arrangement in place in the Northern Ireland Executive. The DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) and Sinn Fein have been the two largest parties at Stormont since 2011.
However, the first overnight results revealed on Friday morning and continuing results shown on Saturday confirmed that seven weeks before a referendum on EU membership, Brits through their local and regional elections quite clearly said that they do not want a revolution. No major changes in the number of seats have been noticed, though there were some local dramas and Pyrrhic victories alike.
Labour vs. Conservatives – why there are no winners?
Labour had a mixed night in council elections, holding on to some key authorities that it had been expected to lose. These elections were thought to be a major test for the party run since 8 months by a new leader – Jeremy Corbyn. Some claim this is too short time to ‘blame’ Corbyn for losses, others that already this short period showed improvement in Labour’s results. Either way, Labourers did not lose out as many seats as was predicted. With the up to date results – 24 councillors’ seats were lost and one council controlled previously by Labourers.
In some cases, however, unexpectedly increased the advantage, for example in central Cardiff, and even won some single mandates from conservatives. The overall message, however, is as follows: Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn has not caused more excitement in the electorate. The result gives the arguments both for his supporters as well as opponents. When the ruling Conservative Party is going through an internal crisis, doctors on strike, falling steel industry, Panama’s leaks leading to PM etc. opposition should gain, and not balanced on the edge – say opponents of Corbyn. The percentage of support for the Labour Party is greater than a year ago and much higher than in 2008, however still it has not been clearly showed in the latest results. Their goal – the victory in the 2020 General Election does not seem that straightforward and painless as once hoped for. On the other hand, there is still to less arguments for Corbyn’s opponents to change the Labour’s leaderships before the major run.
Conservatives of course interpreted their results as a victory. Six years in the office and with some major downs on the way, securing control in 34 councils and losing only 35 councillors can really be treated as a fairly good result. Additionally, their remarkable gain in Scotland, traditionally land of Labour, can be seen as a slap in the face for the Labour Party.
Party which had a relatively good night is UKIP since they have won their first assembly seats in U.K. ‘Super Thursday’ Elections . Nigel Farage can be content with the results coming from wales and England. UKIP managed to secure at least 6 seat in the Welsh Assembly and increased their representation from 8 to 28 councillors in England. The Eurosceptic electorate, who turned away from the Labour Party, gave the Farage’s party a secured place in the second row of British politics.
Scotland and its lost dream about independence
About four million people were registered to vote in the Scottish election which made its turnout one of the best in whole UK. It was also the first time that 16 and 17-year-olds have been eligible to vote in a Scottish Parliament election. The SNP (Scottish National Party) was seeking a third successive term in government – and a second successive majority of seats in the Scottish Parliament.
Despite SNP’s high expectations for these elections and claims about the ‘historic victory’, the leading party, first time since election in 2007 will be forced again to rule with the minority government or try to form a coalition, as the Conservatives, in a move that would been unthinkable in the past, pushed Labour into third place in Scotland, with leader Ruth Davidson winning her seat from the SNP. Nicola Sturgeon’s party lost 6 seats. This change has further going consequences – one of the most crucial is the lost chance for the second independence referendum at least for the next four years as conservative opposition can block it successfully now.
Labour Party with only 24 MSPs now in comparison to 37 in previous term, falling into the second place. This is the worst result for Labourers since the creation of Scottish Parliament in 1999. Labour clearly lost momentum in Scottish politics and it seems it has no idea how to regain its support and what aspects of Scottish politics to build on in. Liberal Democrats on the other hand noted better results than expected and secured 5 seats.
U.K. ‘Super Thursday’ Elections: Significant change in London
U.K. ‘Super Thursday’ Elections were also held for the London Assembly and a London Mayor and these brought in the most significant change.
Labour’s candidate Sadiq Khan was running ahead of Conservative Zac Goldsmith in early mayoral voting in London, however his victory was not sure till the last moment as the low turnout in London election could have worked against him.
Final results revealed after U.K. ‘Super Thursday’ Elections have confirmed the historic victory of first Muslim-origin Mayor of London who received 56.8% of votes against 43.2% gained by his opponent Tory – Zac Goldsmith.
Khan in his first speech after results were revealed mentioned his brining up on the council estates in the south London and hard work of his parents – Pakistani bus driver and a seamstress – that helped him to become who is today. Khan – a lawyer dealing with human rights, a former councillor and MP in the House of Commons has been a great asset of the Labour Party in this election and he did delivered despite of the overwhelming critique and accusations of representing clients who were with were in trouble with the police, and frequented convicted for terrorist activities. Some opponents used these facts and were insinuating Khan’s ties with radical Islamists. The apogee of black PR was a photo of the wreckage of a red London bus blown up by terrorists in the attacks in London in 2005, accompanying an article in the Daily Mail warning of a vote on Labour’s candidate.
Khan never denied he is a believer and a practicing Muslim but far from radical views and his voting for the legalization of same-sex partnerships during his term in Westminster can work here as an example. He believes that being a member of the foreign community and the Muslim gives him better chance of bringing various communities of London closer to each other. As he said he want to be the mayor for all Londoners and thanked his voters for choosing hope over the fear in this election.
U.K. ‘Super Thursday’ Elections : 2020 ‘prediction’
Looking at the results of U.K. ‘Super Thursday’ Elections , it can be tempting to some predictions about the future 2020 elections. Regarding the Labour Party it seems there is little evidence to suggest that it is on its way up. Current performance would rather suggest that Mr. Corbyn managed to hang in somewhere there, maybe except of the win of Mr. Khan in London which seems to be more of his personal rather than Labour’s success.
Conservatists on the other hand achieved a fairly good result as for the party since six years in the office. But nor is there much evidence of enthusiasm for the Conservative government in England. The Tories so far have picked up their traditional seats in England but also achieved an unexpected success in Scotland, pushing Labourers even further in the shadow. But it is SNP that made it third time in the row receiving support of the majority of Scots.
Labour did well in Wales but so did UKIP for its proportions. Some seats were also regained by Liberal Democrats which might show some sign of public opinion ‘calming down’.
The next big test that awaits British public will be held on 23th of June and as Thursday’s results might give us some hints, the final verdict on UK’s future won’t be known for sure until Brexit referendum will be concluded.