Focus on St. Albans
Arguably, St. Albans ought to be a Liberal Democrat Parliamentary seat. For years, prior to 1997, the Liberal Democrats achieved a clear second place in the seat, and by 1996, held 40 out of 58 seats on the District Council. Boundary changes, in 1996, removed all of Harpenden from the constituency, and with it, a huge proportion of the Conservative majority.
The Liberal Democrats were favourites to win in 1997 However, Labour surprised everybody by breaking through from third place in 1997, to win the seat. This in turn, made it far easier for Anne Main to regain the seat for the Conservatives, in 2005, as she took advantage of the split between Labour and Liberal Democrat voters to come through the middle.
Beginning in 1998, the Conservatives started winning back council seats within the constituency, such as St. Peterâ€™s, Verulam, and (sometimes) Colney Heath and Redbourn. On the back of local success, the Conservatives were able to improve their vote share at Parliamentary level, in both 2001, and 2005. At the same time, the Liberal Democrats continued to perform well at local council level, particularly in 2003, when they won 13 out of 20 seats contested.
Labour increasingly found themselves squeezed between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, and duly lost the Parliamentary seat in 2005, to the Conservatives, when their vote fell by over 11%. The result was Conservative 37%, Labour 34%, and Liberal Democrat 25%.
This May, Labour was reduced to just 8 seats on the council, with the Liberal Democrats even winning Sopwell, once considered rock solid for Labour. The Liberal Democrats regained control of the council with 31 seats, compared to 18 for the Conservatives.
In all likelihood, St. Albans is reverting to a Conservative/Liberal Democrat battleground, at both local and Parliamentary level.
The Liberal Democrats will face a real battle to retain control of the Council, in May, with four of their seats, Verulam, Marshalswick South, Redbourn and Wheathampstead (which they won on the toss of a coin this year), looking very vulnerable to the Conservatives. They should easily retain their status as the largest party on the council, however, particularly within the boundaries of the Parliamentary constituency. They can also expect to move into second place at the next general election, and thereafter, challenge the Conservatives strongly.
Last nightâ€™s local election results brought mixed results. All parties can find at least one result to be pleased with:-
Camden LBC, Kentish Town: Lib Dem 1,093, Green 812, Labour 808, Conservative 198. Lib Dem gain from Labour. The result was actually quite similar to that in May, when the Liberal Democrats won 2 seats to 1 from Labour. It confirms the Liberal Democratsâ€™ position as the biggest party on Camden. However, the Greens could be challenging them hard in future elections.
Telford UA, Dawley Magna: Telford Peoplesâ€™ Alliance 649, Labour 476, Conservative 446. TPA gain from Labour. Iâ€™m not sure what the Telford Peoplesâ€™ Alliance is, but its candidate came from nowhere to beat Labour, and to knock the Conservatives into third place.
Southend on Sea UA, West Shoebury: Conservative 765, BNP 243, Labour 180, Lib Dem 173. Conservative hold. An easy win here for the Conservatives, but it is striking that the BNP should have moved into second place in a solidly middle class ward.
Gravesham DC; Central. Conservative 689, Labour 463, Lib Dem 109. Conservative hold. Overall, the Labour vote share held up pretty well in the most marginal council left under Labour control in the South East of England.
Horsham DC, Denne; Lib Dem 550, Conservative 456, BNP 171, Independent 78, Labour 54 UKIP 40. Lib Dem hold, in a tight marginal seat. This is another example of the BNP polling well in a middle class seat.
Conwy WCC; Kimmel Bay; Conservative 385, Labour 267, Independent 155, BNP 132, Lib Dem 62. Conservative gain from independent. A good result for the Conservatives, although surprisingly, Plaid Cymru failed to run a candidate despite nearly winning last time.
Renfrewshire SUA; Eldersley. Labour 608, SNP 548, Conservative 198, Lib Dem 159, Scottish Socialist 50. Labour hold. This is Labourâ€™s first hold in Scotland for a long time, and so they should be pretty relieved, despite seeing their vote drop by 20%. This is the last Scottish local election that will be fought under First Past the Post.
Sean Fear is a London Tory activist
Picture source – http://www.theredlondonbus.com/StAlbans.html