The Strange Death of Labour England
I, and others, have commented on Labourâ€™s ongoing decline in local government representation. What is striking, however, is just how much of England the Labour Party has now disappeared from.
There are now 69 English local authorities without any Labour representation whatsoever, compared to 37 without any Liberal Democrat councillors, and 19 without any Conservatives. Councils without any Labour representation are mostly district councils, some of which are very rural. There are however, 6 unitary authorities, which combine County and District functions, where Labour is unrepresented.
Labour can take a little consolation from the fact there are no Metropolitan Boroughs without any Labour councillors, whereas there are 5 without any Conservatives.
However, it still means that there are enormous tracts of the Country where Labour has no local base any more. What is more, the situation is likely to get worse on May 3rd.
Typically, even the wealthiest or most rural local authorities have had at least a few Labour wards, based perhaps on a council estate, or an active farm workersâ€™ trade union. That vote now seems to be vanishing. In addition to the 69 authorities without any Labour representation, there are another 35 where Labour has 3, or fewer, councillors left.
If these tiny groups are wiped out, then Labour will be absent from more than a quarter of all English local authorities. In at least two of these authorities, Watford and Fenland, Labour held overall control quite recently.
On numerous other authorities, some of which were Labour-controlled in the 1990s, such as North Hertfordshire, Dacorum, Cherwell, Hertsmere and Pendle, Labour are likely to be reduced to very low single figures, assuming they survive at all.
It is very difficult to see Labour recovering this lost ground, at least so long as they remain in government.
At one level, it doesnâ€™t matter hugely to Labour if they are wiped out in these authorities. Few of their Parliamentary seats are located there (Watford and Pendle being obvious examples of ones that are, which are very vulnerable). But it is a striking demonstration of how Labour have been driven back into their heartlands of the Metropolitan Boroughs, and former mining areas.
And it is, of course, very difficult to stage any sort of a recovery in an area where your local councillor base has been wiped out, even when you recover in popularity across the Country as a whole. This is something the Conservatives have discovered in Manchester and Liverpool.
There were no by-elections last night.
Sean Fear, a Tory from London, contributes a weekly column to PBC