Are Labourâ€™s southern Problems getting worse?
Some weeks ago, I wrote about the return of â€œLabourâ€™s Southern Discomfortâ€, the instinctive rejection of Labour by Southern voters, in the 1980s. This showed up markedly in Mayâ€™s local election results, and is now even more pronounced in recent local by-election results.
Labour support, in local by-elections, has generally held up better in the North than in the South, particularly in the North West, where the party has actually gained four seats since May. What we are witnessing in the South, on the other hand, is the elimination of Labourâ€™s last strongholds, outside London.
Recent results have included falls in the Labour vote share of 28% in Pill, North Somerset, 25% in Downton & Redlynch, Salisbury, 10% in Southwick, West Sussex, and 7% (compared to May) in Battin, Havant. This pattern was continued in last nightâ€™s results. These are all wards where, historically, Labour have won seats, or at least polled strongly, and where their support now seems to be vanishing. If these results are replicated in May, there could easily be over one hundred local authorities, mainly in the South, without any Labour representation at all.
Last nightâ€™s results were, as I have indicated, poor for Labour. Both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have reason to be pleased.
Durham CC – Ouston and Urpeth: Labour 665, Lib Dem 487. Labour hold. A strong swing to the Liberal Democrats.
East Lindsey DC – Skegness St Clements: Labour 356, Conservative 249, Ukip 157. Labour hold. Labourâ€™s one reasonable result of the night, helped probably by the split in the right wing vote between Conservative and UKIP.
East Lindsey DC- Sutton-on-Sea South: Lib Dem 273, Independent 198, Lab 142. Lib Dem gain from Independent.
Havant BC – Hart Plain: Conservative 839, Lib Dem 593, Labour 84.. Conservative gain from Lib Dem. This is strange as it contrasts completely with the result in Battin, which saw the Lib Dems move up from third to first place.
Maidstone BC – Parkwood: Lib Dem 347, Lab 130, C 125. This has historically been a safe Labour ward, which the Liberal Democrats have taken on a huge swing. It is a typical example of the type of Southern ward where Labour support is melting away.
Newcastle-upon-Tyne MBC- Lemington: Lib Dem 1180, Labour 815, BNP 383, Conservative 147. Lib Dem gain from Labour. The relative positions of the Liberal Democrats and Labour are similar to where they were in May, suggesting that the impact of the Conservatives and BNP was neutral. The outcome suggests that the Liberal Democrats will face few difficulties in Newcastle next May.
Oswestry BC – Whittington: Conservative 314, Labour 121, Lib Dem 114. Conservative gain from Independent.
Scarborough BC – Hertford: C 736, BNP 267. Conservative hold. A straight fight between Conservatives and BNP is a rarity. Does anyone know why the Liberal Democrats failed to contest a seat they nearly won in 2003?
Shropshire CC – Oswestry: C 770, Lab 338, Lib Dem 324 Conservative hold. This is an unusual example of a two seat County Division. Labour actually won one of the seats here in 2005, and this is an appalling result for them. The Labour vote was down by 5/6 compared to 2005.
Shropshire CC – Whittington: Lib Dem 680, Conservative 559. Lib Dem gain from Independent.
Tewkesbury BC- Northway: Lib Dem 250, Conservative 205, Independent 202, Labour 93. Lib Dem gain from Labour. This is another dreadful result for Labour, who went from first to fourth place.
Sean Fear is a London Tory activist