It Wasn't All Plain Sailing for the Conservatives in the Locals

06/05/2016 17:15 | Updated 07 May 2016

Much of the coverage from the English local elections has covered the blow to Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party. This will exacerbate the rift that already exists between a radical leadership and a pragmatic local government base. And while a Khan victory will be spun as the story of the night, the reality is that no opposition has lost councils seats in this way for thirty years.

At LGiU we have been closely watching the results come in all night and the analysis for the Conservatives should be a key story rather than a side show to the Labour Party.

The law of political gravity is that Governments lose seats and opposition parties gain them. That has not happened. The Conservatives are effectively six years into Government and have not haemorrhaged councils. This is quite an achievement.

It wasn't all plain sailing. The loss of the London Mayoralty and losing Worcester to No Overall Control show that where Labour are organised they can still win. Labour also held places that gave David Cameron the keys to Downing Street in 2015. Nuneaton, Southampton, Crawley, Harlow. Central Office should take note. 

The last time these councils elected, Labour gained 823 councillors. This time Labour lost seats which last happened under Michael Foot in the 1980's. Labour lost control in Dudley, a reverse that should be of deep concern to the party. The Black Country is an important bell weather to power in this country. 

The danger for the national party is that they assume that councils will return Conservatives no matter what the government does. That people will simply vote for the Not-Jeremy-Corbyn-candidate. A near rebellion over the council funding settlement in January saw Tory leaders write publically to complain about the scale of cuts. The Counties were especially hard hit and these councils will be up for election next year. The episode showed that Ministers have not quite grasped that they upset the grassroots at their peril.

Last night's results also showed that Conservative councils have been effective in managing declining funds whilst continuing to provide public services. They have not been given the boot for failed bin collections or the dimming of streetlights. In fact it demonstrates that Conservative council leaders across the country have innovated against the tide of austerity. For that they have been rightly rewarded.

Jonathan Carr-West is Chief Executive, Local Government Information Unit (LGiU)