“They’ll be dancing in the streets of Witney tonight!”
Phew! Everyone calmed down now after the local elections at the start of the month? That’s a relief because boy has this month been a real rollercoaster for all concerned (and to think it all started with a set of local elections that were quite frankly unpredictable). When the dust had settled and the councils all declared it was clear that was just one winner and that was David Cameron’s Conservatives.
Local Elections 2006: National Projected Vote Share / Change on 2002 / Seats Won / Change on 2002
Conservatives 39% (+5% on 2002) winning 1,830 seats (+317 on 2002)
Labour 26% (-7% on 2002) winning 1,442 seats (-320 on 2002)
Liberal Democrats 25% (Unchanged on 2002) winning 907 seats (+1 on 2002)
Others 10% (+2% on 2002) winning 133 seats (-2 on 2002)
And so naturally after that bonanza you think that the Conservatives could do no wrong in local by-elections? And you’d be right! Defending 13 seats, they ended up with 18! And yet they did have a couple of hiccups along the way. They gained Eynsham on Oxfordshire County Council from the Lib Dems and Pakefield on Suffolk County Council from Lab as well as several Labour wards on Wyre and North Kevesten, but managed to lose two on Epsom and Scarborough councils to the Ratepayers and Greens respectively. But on a three cornered tally of 45%, I don’t think that Mr. Cameron will be too worried.
And neither can the Lib Dems either, a 28% three cornered tally isn’t that bad and compared well with recent months and managed to gain a couple of wards from Independents on West Lindsey and Caradon.
The real losers in both the locals and the local by-elections were Labour. Managing to poll just a paultry 16% in the three cornered tally wasn’t enough, they also went on to lose 3 seats to the Conservatives! All of which will not make happy reading for Mr. Blair when he comes back from Washington. But you know what he’ll say: “These are local by-elections, not a general election”. Which brings us nicely to the national projected share and an admission
In my recent postings, I’ve been using the numbers published by the BBC on their local election programme of 2004 that suggested when a general election and local election are held on the same day, the Lib Dems do 8% better in a local election, whilst Labour do 4% worse, and the Conservatives and Others do 2% worse. I have since discovered that these numbers are in fact WRONG! I have found the correct figures and so will adjust the three cornered tallies by these new adjustments which are:
Tories: 45% in local by-elections May 2006, who poll 3% worse in a general election = 42% (+9% on Election 2005)
LDs 28% in local by-elections May 2006, who poll 6% worse in a general election = 22% (-1% on Election 2005)
LAB 16% in local by-elections May 2006, who poll 9% better in a general election = 25% (-11% on Election 2005)
Others 11% in local by-elections May 2006, who poll unchanged in a general election = 11% (+3% on Election 2005)
Thus gives us a forecast House of Commons of:CON 377 (+179): LAB 176 (-180 ): LD 62 (n/c): OTH 31 (+1 ). CON majority 108
So to quote that famous line from BBC Rugby, “They’ll be dancing in the streets of Witney tonight!
Harry Hayfield is a Lib Dem activist in Wales.