Nobody can win in West Yorkshire
West Yorkshire is unusual in having evolved a multi-party system in local elections. This is unusual under first past the post elections, as there is pressure on the voters to choose between two alternatives, in order to provide one party with an overall majority.
Four out of five Metropolitan borough councils, Leeds, Bradford, Kirklees and Calderdale, are now under No Overall Control. Whatâ€™s more, there is little prospect of that changing in future elections. In addition to the three main parties, both the Greens, and the British National Party, with ten and eight councillors respectively, have substantial support in this part of the Country, and can expect to win additional seats in future elections. Making an overall majority even harder to obtain is the fact that Independent candidates also poll well here, holding sixteen council seats in these five boroughs. Local politicians, who are used to winning power outright, or losing it, must now get used to working in coalitions with parties with whom they may have little in common.
It is likely that West Yorkshire, with its support for parties outside of the mainstream, and its coalitions, represents a growing trend in this country. It was striking that last night, Independent candidates were able to defeat the Labour machine in the Blaenau Gwent by-elections. At the same time, in Bromley and Chislehurst, minor party candidates won sixteen per cent of the vote, and one of them, Nigel Farage of UKIP, even beat the Labour candidate into fourth place.
Last nightâ€™s local by-elections produced nothing like the degree of excitement generated by the Parliamentary by-elections. However, there was a strong swing to the Liberal Democrats in Canterbury, and quite strong performances by the British National Party in four seats they were contesting for the first time.
Canterbury CC – Sturry South: C 474, Lib Dem 318, Lab 89, Ind 24. Con Hold.
East Staffordshire BC – Shobnall: Lab 581, C 441, BNP 291, Lib Dem 102. Labour hold.
Epsom and Ewell BC – Ruxley: Residents 313, C 292, Lab 152, Lib Dem 66, UKIP 42. Residentsâ€™ Hold.
Lincoln CC – Moorland: C 640, Lab 569, BNP 254, Lib Dem 96, Ukip 46. Con Hold.
Tameside MBC – Denton South: Lab 900, C 346, BNP 316, Lib Dem 115, Green 47. Lab Hold.
Tameside MBC – Stalybridge North: Lab 773, C 427, BNP 283, Green 137, Lib Dem 75. Lab hold.
Wealden District – Uckfield DC: Lib Dem 381, C 211, Green 60. Lib Dem hold.
Sean Fear, a Tory activist, writes a regular column on local elections.