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The Blue Wall and The Red Wall: Local Elections 2023 Pose Disaster for the Tories

As the local election results pour in from across England, it is clear that the Conservative Party’s support has dropped – from Windsor and Maidenhead to Stoke-on-Trent, the ‘blue wall’ appears to be collapsing, while the Labour Party may be regaining support of the ‘red wall’.

130 councils out of 230 have announced their ballot results so far, but as things currently stand, the Conservatives have lost 463 seats, while the Labour Party have increased their vote share by 265 seats. Crucially, the Liberal Democrats have gained 147, and the Green Party is up by 101.

Moreover, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) now has no politicians elected anywhere in the country.

The local elections: an overview

Over 8,000 council seats were up for election yesterday. For the first time, ID was required to vote – a policy which has caused much controversy on social media as some perceive it as an act of voter suppression. Unsurprising to some, the Electoral Commission admitted that the need for photo ID presented “a greater challenge for some groups in society” and that “some people were regrettably unable to vote today as a result”.

The Labour Party has been leading in opinion polls for months – after achieving a record high share in a YouGov poll with a 33-point lead in September, Keir Starmer’s party at present sits 18-points above the Government. The Labour Party has therefore been hoping to gain enough council seats to become the largest local government party. Afterall, local elections are symbolic of the population’s satisfaction with the Government of the day, as well as opposition parties.

Key battlegrounds have included Blackpool and Swindon which Labour gained from the Conservatives, and typical ‘blue wall’ seats such as Wokingham. Dudley was also a contested seat – presenting a Conservative win with a turnout of only 22%.

 Predictions of the number of seats Labour would gain have varied – some have suggested a 600 or more gain, while others have predicted a lesser victory. On the other hand, the Conservatives could potentially lose up to 1,000 seats – with a loss of 254 before midday, could this election mirror the 1995 local elections which were followed by Labour’s landslide victory in 1997?

Labour’s success

Proceeding Labour’s early election gains this morning, particularly the securing of Medway for the first time since 1998, East Staffordshire and Plymouth, Keir Starmer rejoiced that the party is “on course for a Labour majority at the next general election”.

Across the Midlands and the North, politically regarded as the ‘red wall’, the Conservatives have faced a fierce opponent, specifically in Stoke-on-Trent which was gained by Labour.

Under Starmer’s leadership, the Labour Party has revamped its image – no longer does Labour present itself as openly socialist as taking a middle ground approach has engulfed the mainstream party. Yet, on the other side of the Commons, the Conservative Party has been severely detrimental to its own image. This has led commentators to argue that Labour’s polling and local election successes are not symbolic of support for Labour, but rather growing unsatisfaction with the Conservatives. Afterall, Sunak’s popularity is not as low as his party’s.

Specifically, the inability to sufficiently support the population through the cost-of-living crisis, as food, energy, and interest rates soar, all while corporations such as British Gas make record profits worth billions, is turning people away from the Government.

However, PM Sunak brushed off Labour’s wins, stating that he is “not detecting any massive groundswell of movement towards the Labour Party”.

The blue wall

Although Labour is making significant gains, some councils across the ‘blue wall’, areas in the South of England that are typically Conservative, have declared electoral successes for the Liberal Democrats. This has occurred in Windsor and Maidenhead.

Moreover, the Green Party has also advanced its position – across the South, the Green’s are making gains such as in Mid Suffolk and East Herts as co-leader Carla Denyer said her party were benefitting from “a deep dislike of the Tories and Starmer’s uninspiring Labour”.

Final thought

The local elections provide an insight into the UK’s political landscape outside of the two-party system which dominates our general elections. Although we still await many more council results, it is clear that the Conservative Party’s performance has been poor.

The Labour Party has made notable gains and their hopes of entering office following the next general election are becoming more feasible. Crucially, the Green Party’s gains are also symbolic of both people’s concerns about the climate crisis, and their apathy towards Labour and the Conservatives.   

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