I am slightly disappointed by the results of the council elections across Britain – although the Liberal Democrats received the kick up the backside that they deserved, and Labour gained a fair deal of support, the Conservatives managed to hold onto a large number of seats. The AV referendum showed that there was an overwhelming lack of public support for voting reform. Then again, none of the results were truly surprising.
The Liberal Democrats, the scapegoat for the Conservatives since the general election last year, faced a large defeat, losing 9 councils and over 300 councillors, with a drop of 9% in their support. I don’t think anyone could say that this was a surprise, as ever since the coalition agreement was drawn up the media has been filled with page after page of their broken promises, as they sold their souls for a chance at electoral reform, which I will discuss later. All that we can hope for is that the crushing defeat of the Liberal Democrats and the Yes to AV campaign will give Nick Clegg a kick up the backside and help persuade him to grow a spine.
Labour gained quite a bit from the election, with a positive swing of 10%, many of whom I predict were disgruntled Liberal Democrat supporters. They gained 26 councils, which I see as being a big improvement. However, I am still ever so slightly underwhelmed by Labours performance, and have almost no idea about Ed Miliband’s policies. Labour has yet to really impress me, but I am glad that they have narrowed the gap between them and the Conservatives, with only a 1% difference between the two.
For me, one of the most disappointing parts of this election was the fact that the Conservatives not only held onto the majority of their seats, but achieved a positive swing of 3%, despite the way they have been cutting deep into public services. I find it strange, that the Liberal Democrats received such a crushing result from the election, but their partners in government not only held what they already had, but gained support. I put this down to the way that the Conservatives never made the same sorts of promises as the Liberals, and thus never really broke them, and the way that the Liberals have been used as a popular scapegoat, in which they are blamed for every joint decision made by the government.
It would be impossible to talk about the election without mention of the AV referendum. Much as I was supporting the Yes to AV campaign, in truth I always knew that electoral reform would not happen. The apparent complexity of the system, as well as the fact that the No campaign was extensively funded by the Conservatives, meant that I always thought it unlikely that the alternative vote would be introduced to Britain. Those who sought electoral reform were uncontent with the fact that AV was not Proportional Representation, whereas a friend of mine supporting the No campaign was unhappy with the way that it could essentially say “Your vote wasn’t good enough! Try again!”.
AV was opposed by the majority of voters, from many different political backgrounds, and the crushing defeat at the election box is proof that it was never something that had a great deal of support across the board. However, I can’t help that feel that the fact that voting reform hasn’t passed has made all of the sacrifices that the Liberal Democrats have made all for naught.
In conclusion, the only result that I find surprising is the fact that the Conservatives gained seats – unfortunately, everything else was predictible – a lack of voting reform means that the culture of safe seats remains in place, and that smaller parties still have an uphill battle to gain control of any seats. Labour are gaining support, but have yet to really define how Miliband will steer them, and the Conservatives remain in the position that helped them to win the last general election. All I can hope is that these situations will continue to change, and that the Liberals can start to act against the Conservatives when needed, instead of rolling over and accepting whatever they are told.