The Brexit Party has yet to field a council candidate, the Liberal Democrats continue to mix some spectacular peaks with occasional embarrassing troughs, and the pattern of Green Party contestation is patchy at best. But that is not to say that all is quiet at local authority level.
The Isle of Wight provided an example of one of the potential perils of voting for an ‘Independent’. In principle it sounds an ideal way to opt out of the noise of partisanship, but the underlying allegiances of the candidate may remain hidden.
The now retiring councillor in Whippingham and Osborne announced in 2018 that she had always opposed ‘Conservative austerity measures’ and was joining the Labour party. At the subsequent by-election, however, electors rejected both Labour and two Independent candidates and chose a Conservative councillor for the first time in a decade.
Elsewhere, the Mansfield Independent Forum regained a seat that had been its until May. The background here is that the winner then – Labour’s Andy Abrahams – was narrowly elected Mansfield mayor at the same time and had to resign as a councillor. It was probably name recognition associated with his mayoral candidacy that got him across the line at ward level in the first place. His successor Labour candidate lacked that advantage.
The parlous state of traditional party politics in some parts of the country was given emphatic expression in an Independent ‘hold’ in Middlesbrough. The result itself was no surprise, but the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats between them attracted just 36 votes with Labour registering 12 per cent of the total cast. There may be no easy way back from that level of disaffection.
The result of the month, though, was the Liberal Democrat victory from a standing start in Bridlington North, East Riding of Yorkshire. This ward, which abuts the North Sea and includes the iconic landmark of Flamborough Head, does not look to be natural Lib Dem territory.
The party had not even fielded a candidate since 2007. In 2015, UKIP ‘stole’ one of the seats that the Conservatives had probably come to believe were their natural right; and the ward is likely to have decisively voted Leave at the 2016 EU Referendum. Not for the first time, the Liberal Democrats attributed their success to vigorous, locally focused campaigning.
With another gain from the Conservatives in Wiltshire and one from Labour in Remain-voting Cannon Hill, Merton, there was further evidence that the electorally dark days of the coalition may now be behind them.