Four London borough mayors including
Lutfur Rahman from Tower Hamlets...



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Labour Party reinforces dominance
in England’s largest towns and cities

By Andrew Stevens

24 May 2014: Following Thursday’s (22 May 2014) local elections in England, any political observer from outside Britain may be excused of believing that a nationalist populist party had taken over many of the country’s city halls. But nothing could be further from the truth. Despite post-election coverage insinuating that the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) had caused an electoral earthquake, the party actually holds very few seats (see table) and will not control any local authorities. It was in fact the centre-left Labour Party, which swept the board in London and most big towns and cities.

In addition to elections for all 32 local councils in London, one third of city councillors were up for election in England’s six largest metropolitan areas, as well as in cities such as Bristol, Bradford, Derby, Hull, Plymouth, Portsmouth and Southampton. Smaller cities and towns such as Carlisle, Cambridge, Gloucester, Hartlepool, Lincoln and Rugby also elected one third of their councils.

Results from largest English towns and cities
(Total number of councillors after the 22 May 2014 local elections)
City
Labour Party
Conservative Party
Liberal Democrats
Green Party
UK Independence Party
Others
Birmingham
77
31
12
-
-
-
Blackburn
48
12
4
-
-
-
Bolton
40
15
3
-
2
-
Bradford
46
21
8
3
1
11
Bristol
31
15
16
6
1
1
Cambridge
25
1
14
-
-
2
Cheltenham
-
11
24
-
-
5
Colchester
8
23
25
-
-
4
Coventry
43
11
-
-
-
-
Derby
27
14
7
2
-
1
Doncaster
48
8
-
-
1
6
Dudley
40
20
-
1
9
2
Exeter
27
10
3
-
-
-
Gateshead
55
-
11
-
-
-
Gloucester
9
18
9
-
-
-
Harrogate
-
34
15
-
-
1
Hartlepool
19
3
-
-
2
9
Hastings
24
8
-
-
-
-
Hull
37
2
15
-
1
4
Ipswich
35
10
3
-
-
-
Leeds
62
19
9
3
-
6
Lincoln
27
6
-
-
-
-
Liverpool
79
-
3
4
-
4
Maidstone
2
25
19
-
4
5
Manchester
95
-
-
-
-
1
Milton Keynes
25
18
13
-
1
-
Newcastle
52
-
24
-
-
2
Norwich
21
-
3
-
15
-
Oldham
45
2
10
-
2
1
Oxford
33
-
8
6
-
1
Peterborough
12
28
4
-
3
10
Plymouth
30
24
-
-
3
-
Portsmouth
4
12
19
-
6
1
Preston
32
19
5
-
-
1
Reading
31
10
2
3
-
-
Rochdale
48
11
1
-
-
-
Rotherham
50
2
-
-
10
1
Rugby
10
23
7
-
-
2
Salford
52
8
-
-
-
-
Sheffield
60
-
17
4
3
-
Slough
33
8
-
-
1
-
Solihull
2
29
8
10
1
-
Southampton
28
18
-
-
-
2
Stevenage
34
2
3
-
-
-
Stockport
22
10
28
-
-
3
Sunderland
63
8
-
-
-
4
Swindon
23
30
4
-
-
-
Wakefield
54
6
-
-
2
1
Walsall
30
21
3
-
3
-
Weymouth
15
11
6
-
1
-
Wigan
62
2
-
-
-
11
Winchester
3
28
25
-
-
1
Wolverhampton
45
12
2
-
1
-
Worcester
16
17
1
1
-
-
Worthing
-
27
7
1
1
1

The run-up to the elections was dominated by a series of gaffes and fallouts among the right-wing UKIP, some of whose candidates had been identified making racist, sexist and homophobic comments on social media, including bizarre insults to black celebrities, while party leader Nigel Farage’s views on the ‘criminality’ of Eastern Europeans dominated the news. An eve of poll Caribbean carnival in the London suburb of Croydon to assert the party’s multicultural appeal had to be cancelled on account of anti-racist protestors and the Jamaican steel band hired for the event’s refusal to play.

More boringly perhaps, all five elected mayors standing for re-election were returned to office: in London Hackney’s Jules Pipe, Lewisham’s Steve Bullock, Newham’s Robin Wales and Tower Hamlets’ Lutfur Rahman; and in neighbouring Watford Dorothy Thornhill for the Liberal Democrats. Pipe, Bullock, Wales (each elected with over 50%) and Thornhill are each now on their fourth term of office, while independent Rahman was first elected over his erstwhile Labour Party challenger in 2010.

A particularly vicious campaign was fought between Rahman and his Labour rival, London assembly member John Biggs, who had served as Tower Hamlets council leader in the 1990s. Rahman recently appointed former London mayor (and cheerleader for his readmission to Labour) Ken Livingstone as regeneration adviser, as well as a number of Livingstone’s former advisers to key posts. Observing strict party rules, Livingstone begrudgingly endorsed Biggs. Rahman also faces a central government audit over accusations of channelling grants to favourable community groups, due to report in late June.

Elsewhere in London the Labour Party secured a number of high profile scalps by taking control of ‘flagship’ Conservative council Hammersmith and Fulham, as well as Croydon from the governing party. Redbridge also elected a Labour council for the first time in its 50 year history, with the party taking control of Merton on a majority of seats having previously formed a minority administration. The race for Barnet, in North London, under Conservative control since 2002, was likened to Florida in 2000 as a result of its knife-edge count held until midnight the following day, which saw the party retain from Labour by just one seat.

Results from selected London boroughs
(Total number of councillors after the 22 May 2014 local elections. Members of the London Assembly and the London Mayor were not up for election)
London borough
Labour Party
Conservative Party
Liberal Democrats
Green Party
UK Independence Party
Others
Barking
51
-
-
-
-
-
Barnet
27
32
1
-
-
3
Bexley
15
45
-
-
3
-
Brent
56
6
1
-
-
-
Camden
41
12
1
-
-
-
Croydon
40
30
-
-
-
-
Ealing
53
12
4
-
-
-
Greenwich
43
8
-
-
-
-
Hackney
50
4
3
-
-
-
Hammersmith
26
20
-
-
-
-
Haringey
48
-
9
-
-
-
Harrow
34
26
1
-
-
-
Havering
1
22
-
-
7
24
Hillingdon
23
42
-
-
-
-
Hounslow
49
11
-
-
-
-
Islington
47
-
-
1
-
-
Kensington
11
38
1
-
-
-
Lambeth
59
3
-
1
-
-
Lewisham
53
-
-
1
-
-
Newham
60
-
-
-
-
-
Richmond
39
-
15
-
-
-
Southwark
48
2
13
-
-
-
Westminster
44
16
-
-
-
-

In two London boroughs, Barking & Dagenham and Newham, Labour were able to secure the totality of council seats, while in other councils such as Islington, Lewisham and Greenwich it ran opposition parties into low single figures. This was all the more notable as boroughs such as Brent, Islington, Lambeth and Southwark were considered de facto Liberal Democrat fiefdoms for most of the decade until the 2010 elections, largely on account of Labour’s unpopularity over Tony Blair and Iraq. Overall Labour’s performance was its best in the capital since 1971. Some minor solace for the Conservatives was found in taking Kingston-upon-Thames from their national coalition partners the Liberal Democrats, now down to just one borough in the capital, their stronghold Sutton.

Outside of London, Labour also consolidated its hold on the big cities, with the Liberal Democrats down to just three councillors in Liverpool, and taking control of Bradford for the first time since 1999, also in Cambridge and Milton Keynes.

The results were all the more notable as with several London boroughs the Liberal Democrats had previously governed cities such as Birmingham, Leeds, Newcastle and Sheffield at the height of Tony Blair’s unpopularity over Iraq after 2003. However, Labour victories in these cities were dampened elsewhere by a number of disappointments, such as in the Manchester suburb of Trafford, where the Conservatives remained in control, as well as its failure to take key targets towns such as Swindon and Tamworth.

Labour now controls 20 of the 32 London boroughs and 30 of the 36 districts in metropolitan areas. In London and the urban centres, as opposed to the country at large. However, the increase in Labour’s vote has been attributed to shifting demographics, a point picked up by UKIP who complained their own paltry tally of councillors was on account of London’s “educated, young and cultured” population. However, Labour was in no mood to crow over UKIP’s charge that a “metropolitan elite” had failed to understand the “heartache” felt by put-upon voters outside the capital, as its concentration of victories in urban centres rather than key parliamentary seats in suburban areas and smaller towns demonstrated its metropolitan rather than national appeal.

UKIP did better in the South Yorkshire town of Rotherham and Essex towns such as Basildon, coming second for the first time. Since the emergence of the populist UKIP as a national force and dominant party in European elections, Labour has sought to paint itself as tough on immigration and more sceptical on the European Union, but found it harder to shake off UKIP’s portrayal of being an out of touch ‘establishment’ party rather than a challenge to the Conservative-led coalition, especially under beleaguered leader Miliband.  London’s campaign chief, shadow justice minister (and campaign manager for Miliband in the Labour leadership election) Sadiq Khan, is understood to harbour ambitions to be Labour’s candidate for Mayor in 2016 should he not be elected to national office in the 2015 general election.

The current Conservative London mayor Boris Johnson reflected on his party’s drubbing in the capital by saying he was “sad to see we have lost some great councillors”. It is understood that Johnson will not seek a third term in 2016 and will return to Parliament, no doubt using the Conservatives’ local and European battering to position himself to succeed to Prime Minister David Cameron as party leader.

The London Mayor is one of several senior party figures urging a pact with the “essentially Conservative” UKIP and its “rather engaging” leader, fellow ‘devil may care’ maverick Nigel Farage. Farage and Johnson tend to be held up by the media as accessible and authentic politicians capable of connecting with the electorate, especially the BBC who devote the bulk of their political coverage to speculating over the rise of UKIP or Johnson’s likelihood of becoming Prime Minister.

Away from the media glare, Labour took control of the Local Government Association (the umbrella body for English local authorities) for the first time since 2004. London also elected its first parish council since 1936 in the Queen’s Park district of the City of Westminster.

Polls were held in England on 22 May, rather than the scheduled traditional first Thursday of May, to coincide with elections for the European Parliament instead, in a government bid to increase voter turnout.

While no local elections were held in Scotland and Wales, in Northern Ireland 11 newly-merged local authorities held elections for the first time, including Belfast which has seen community tensions run high on account of the city council’s policy around the flying of national flags from the city hall. The biggest winners were the governing Democratic Unionist Party of First Minister Peter Robinson, who gained 130 councillors ahead of Sinn Féin on 105. The smaller Ulster Unionist Party claimed 88, the Social Democratic and Labour Party 66 and the centrist cross-community Alliance 32. Parties in Northern Ireland broadly cleave to Protestant (Unionist i.e. pro-UK) or Catholic (nationalist i.e. pro-united Ireland) allegiances. Sinn Fein, which contests elections in Northern and Southern Ireland is now the largest party in Dublin, Derry, Cork and Belfast.







...and Steve Bullock from Lewisham were re-elected on 22 May 2014


On other pages
Sir Steve Bullock
Mayor of Lewisham, London

As with the other of the first wave of elected mayoralties in England, backwater boroughs like Lewisham in London were not the kind of large cities the Blair government had in mind when it introduced the reforms in 2000. However, Lewisham’s first elected mayor Sir Steve Bullock has played a leading role in the Southeast London council’s civic life for a quarter of a century and enjoys the one of the highest national profiles of England’s relatively small number of elected mayors. Steve Bullock was re-elected for a fourth term on 22 May 2014.

Steve Bullock was born in 1954, not in London but the coastal town of Redcar on Teesside in the North East of England. Bullock began his career in local government in 1972 with the neighbouring Saltburn and Marske Urban District Council, working as a van driver. He later moved to the capital and took up employment with the Greater London Council, working under GLC Leader Ken Livingstone as policy adviser (he helped devise the popular Fare’s Fair policy which was later challenged in the High Court). After the GLC’s abolition in 1986 he became Chief Executive of the Greenwich Community Health Council and lastly as Head of the Labour Group Office at the Local Government Association (during the association’s period of Labour leadership). MORE