A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Guest Post

Rt Hon John Spellar MP has been doing some research into exactly whether the 1st May local elections deserve to be compared to previous Tory breakthrough years in 1968 and 1978 which heralded a change of government. He thinks not and has asked me to post this:

"Local Election Results 2008
It’s not all doom and gloom

Contrary to the media commentary, the 2008 local elections were far from being a wipe-out for Labour comparable with our defeats in 1968 or 1978 which presaged Tory General Election victories.

In fact, whilst in 1968 and 1978 the Tories made deep advances into Labour heartlands, this year the Tories’ lack of even a toehold in much of the urban north was still evident.

There are 4 metropolitan councils where there is not a single Tory councillor. In a fifth, Manchester, they have only one. In 1978 these five councils returned a total of 159 Tory councillors!

Even in metropolitan councils covering clusters of parliamentary marginal seats such as Birmingham, Bolton, Bury, Leeds, Wirral, Calderdale and Kirklees, the Tory position is dramatically weaker now than it was in 1978. In fact, in only 5 out of the 36 metropolitan councils are the Tories in a better position now than in 1978.

Metropolitan Boroughs:

1976 - 43 Tory Councillors
1978 - 45 Tory Councillors
2008 - 23 Tory Councillors

1978 - 38
2008 - 26

1976 - 45
1978 -46
1979 - 33
2008 -1

1976 - 28
1978 - 37
2008 - 7

1976 - 31
1978 - 35
2008 - 8

1976 - 24
1978 - 27
2008 - 13

1976 - 39
1978 - 40
2008 - 10

1976 - 29
1978 - 28
2008 - 10

1976 - 47
1978 - 54
2008 - 39

1978 - 20
2008 - 14

1976 - 17
1978 - 18
2008 - 0

1976 - 17
1978 - 24
2008 - 0

St Helens
1976 - 19
1978 - 20
2008 - 6

1975 - 40
1976 - 43
1978 - 44
2008 - 18

1976 - 42
1978 - 45
2008 - 24

1976 - 17
1978 - 17
2008 - 9

1976 - 22
1978 - 24
2008 - 0

1976 - 13
1978 - 14
2008 - 0

Newcastle Upon Tyne
1976 - 29
1978 - 33
2008 - 0

1976 - 66
1978 - 69
2008 - 49

1976 - 39
1978 - 46
2008 - 14

1978 - 38
1979 - 38
2008 - 26

1976 - 61
1978 - 60
2008 - 35

1976 - 34
1978 - 34
2008 - 20

1976 - 38
1978 - 48
2008 - 22

1976 - 50
1978 - 50
2008 - 22"


Blogger Theo Blackwell's blog said...

Interesting but not just the north.

1968 - 1972 was the last time the Tories held my ward, Regent's Park in Camden.

In 2006 Labour held this by 40% to the Tories 23% - a swing of about 1% from Lab to Con since 2002.

In 2008, from the list vote the results were 39% (Lab) and 24% (Tory), around a 1% swing to the Tories under the 'Cameron' effect.

4:16 pm, May 29, 2008

Anonymous jdc said...

I'm not sure this tells us what we want to know, though. How are they doing in the parts of these that are their target seats? Where they don't seem to be doing well, where have we lost out to the Liberals (a tiny force in most of these areas in '78) and how will their voters vote at a general?

I don't think anyone's predicting the Tories will get 44% at the next election, which they did in 1979. But equally, if they do, Labour won't get 37%, like we did then, since that would be a gain from 2005.

Sure, the Tories haven't broken through in much of the urban North and amongst swathes of the met working class. Do they need to in order to form a Government, though?

4:57 pm, May 29, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bury this year saw the Conservatives win ten seats to Labour's four. The LibDems won three.

May I remind you that Labour controlled Bury Council throughout the 1980s even when Thatcher was at an all time high politically.

This year saw over 25000 Conservative votes and less than 16000 Labour votes. In particular there was a Conservative lead in both Bury North AND Bury South.

Even though Labour did reasonably well in Bolton on this year's figures, there'd nonetheless be Conservative gains in Bolton North East and Bolton West.

Remember some authorities have different numbers of Council seats now than then which could influence figures. You'd be best to use this year's results and work out what they would show were there to be an all-out election to the relevant authority. In Bury that would mean 30 Conservatives, 12 Labour and 9 Libs. Pretty emphatic if you ask me!

5:11 pm, May 29, 2008

Anonymous pregethwr said...

There is something called the rise of the Liberal Democrats in local Government which means both main parties are significantly weaker than in 1978...

5:13 pm, May 29, 2008

Anonymous pregethwr said...

Specifically in 1978 the Lib Dem had fewer than 1,000 councillors now they have over 4,500. Many in the mets that comparisons are being made in.

5:14 pm, May 29, 2008

Anonymous observer's friend said...

Luke, off topic, I know but ... are you aware of the current campaign launched today by the Alzheimer's Society? Adult learning has recently been shown to be an effective buffer against Alzheimer's disease. It doesn't prevent it, but it postpones its onset and thus reduces the period for which it afflicts people. However the Labour Government has imposed massive cuts in this area of education - cuts which hit the poorest section of our society (yet again). So do you think it is appropriate or not to lend support to Hackney's adult teachers who are concerned, not only with the loss of jobs, but loss of courses too?

6:52 pm, May 29, 2008

Blogger Praguetory said...

In the 1968 locals, Labour didn't win a single ward in Birmingham. It's pretty difficult to top that. I'll settle for the actual result - in a city where in 2005 9 Labour MPs were elected and 1 Tory, I'll settle for the actual result which was the Tories winning 18 council seats to Labour's 8.

On the new boundaries here's how your party fared in your heartlands.

Gisela Stuart's Edgbaston - 3 Tory holds 1 Tory gain
Richard Burden's Northfield - 2 Tory holds 2 Tory gains
Steve McCabe's Selly Oak - 1 Lib Hold and 3 Tory holds.
Sion Simon's Erdington - 1 Lib gain, 2 Tory gains, 1 Labour hold (2007 majority reduced from 1000 to 60)
Liam Byrne's Hodge Hill - 2 Labour holds, 2 Lib holds
Khalid Mahmood's Perry Barr - 1 Tory gain, 1 Lib hold and 2 Labour holds
Roger Godsiff's Hall Green - 3 Lib holds and 1 Respect gain.


8:25 pm, May 29, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

observer's friend, if they (the teachers) write to me or email I will be happy to meet them about this to see whether I can help their campaign.

9:35 pm, May 29, 2008

Blogger Quink said...

Not that I want to cast a dark cloud, but...

9:56 pm, May 29, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE........................................



10:37 pm, May 29, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...




10:44 pm, May 29, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

Luke: certainly, yes.

The areas we are losing votes are - yes, the South-East and the outer London suburbs.

I don't think that the Tories will necessarily get the sort of majority indicated by the recent elections, but I do think that Labour should stop the obsession with the south-east. Labour do not actually need it to get a majority, and to concentrate on holding a handful of southern seats isn't a sensible election strategy.

But as I have said before, the Tories in government wouldn't be all that different from NL and I certainly see no evidence that they have ideas likely to solve current economic woes.

11:11 pm, May 29, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


your post is bananas.

You say we are losing votes in the South East, therefore we should ignore the South East.

Not exactly logical!

A sensible election strategy is to hold enough seats to keep a majority. You can't do that without getting seats in every region.

11:19 pm, May 29, 2008

Anonymous Sodze said...

Though I agree with you the Conservatives could, and should be doing much better, However I say that as a Conservative. If I was a socialist I would be far more interested in the relative Labour v Conservative totals for this year only, in the 200 most marginal seats.
Forget the membership of the two parties, financial positions Etc. The Tories should not be smug, but Labour should be very concerned to say the least.

11:31 pm, May 29, 2008

Anonymous Andy said...

What JDC said - the Tories don't have to do well on the MDCs to win the election because population in urban areas has declined since 1978while the population (and number of seats) in rural and suburban areas has increased.....

12:30 am, May 30, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked for the Major govt in 1995 and remember coming out with similar ribbish to say Wirral South, local elections etc etc etc were nothing to worry about. Keep kidding yourselves guys, it's fascinatingly entertaining.

8:46 am, May 30, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Anonymous, if you read my earlier posts you'll see I don't think there's "nothing to worry about".

I believe that there is a possibility that the Tories could win a landslide and we could get as few as 150 seats.

However, the one way to ensure that happens is if we just give up and accept it.

There are enough examples from May 1st of places where Labour's vote did hold up or even increase because of local campaigning or council performance to suggest people still want to vote for us, they just need reasons why.

Over the next 2 years we need to give them those reasons both by our performance in government, by our critique of the Tories and by our manifesto for the next term.

You make your own luck in politics - the outcome of elections isn't predetermined by fate.

9:02 am, May 30, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nor by precedent, which is why looking at historical poll outcomes can be a distraction. I share your analysis of what Labour needs to do. The risk is that, like Major, Brown gives the appearance of being buffeted by events and pulled in strange/unpopular directions. If he can't hold the middle ground he's done for. There's still a hope for him, but it seems to ebb by the day

10:16 am, May 30, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the electorate are much more sophisticated in choosing with candidate or party are best placed to remove the target candidate ( usually the candidate of the governing party).While it's true the Tories have all but vanished on Merseyside and parts of the North West Tory voters are still backing 'anti Labour' candidates- usually the lib dems. At a general election I would expect those Tory voters to mobilise behind Tory candidates, the effect will be a double whammy on Labour and the Lib Dems. I'm afraid I ,as a Labour supporter, take no comfort from the survey....and ,as we know, the public perception is almost as important as the facts.The perception being the Tories are rising as Labour plummets.

2:50 pm, May 30, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There are enough examples from May 1st of places where Labour's vote did hold up or even increase because of local campaigning or council performance to suggest people still want to vote for us, they just need reasons why."

that's true, but in many instances, including my own on Merseyside, the reason our vote held up is because the Lib Dems run local councils and we are able to 'out local' the opposition while the opposition have to try and focus the electorate on national issues-indeed I helped capture a Lib Dem seat in my own ward.There's only going to be one winner in those circumstances. However, when it comes to a national general election those factors don't apply.

I don't believe all is lost but I don't think we can clutch at any straws from May 1st either.

4:22 pm, May 30, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

No, Luke.

Labour are clearly losing more votes in the south-east. To aim our appeal at the south-east is not going to benefit us in areas where we are doing better. What is needed whilst the Tories are riding high is to ensure we can motivate our voters - not try to win back those who have definitely left us. You forget just how low turnouts have been in the last two elections

Isn't that obvious from Crewe and Nantwich?

You still seem to think that we can somehow win back those who voted Labour for the first time in 97. Mo chance. But how about motivating those who couldn't be bothered to go out to vote or who switched to the LD's from Labour in 2001 and 2007. Much more feasible whilst the Tories are riding high. Which they are - and that means getting back those fair-weather 97 voters is a waste of time. They are not coming back - certainly not next time.

This may mean that getting a majority is going to be difficult next time, but it certainly won't be done by alienating core voters at in a mistaken attempt to win over Tories.

This is the problem, Luke. What worked in 97 when the Tories were risible and we were new and fresh won't work now. I think its that which NL enthusiasts just don;t get.

5:41 pm, May 30, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I think core voters want similar things to swing voters in the South East: decent public services, taxes at levels low enough they can afford them, a tough approach to crime and security, homes (whether for rent or to buy) they can afford, economic security.

We tried a strategy of just mobilising our core vote in both London and Crewe. In both cases it did that but we still lost.

The trouble is that underlying Labour's last 3 wins and obscured by them has been a continuation of long term demographic trends that affect Labour adversely and have been going on for 50 years - dying out of the generation politicised by the depression and 1945, the decline of major unionised workplaces, population movement from north to south, embourgeoisement, decreasing class identification. If we refought 1983 (I've just been watching it on the Parliament Channel) with the same politics but today's demography and boundary changes we would get perhaps 15% and 100 seats, not the 27% and 209 that Foot got.

There are no longer enough core Labour voters in the right places to give us a hardcore PLP of 200 MPs let alone any chance of winning power. The strategy you advocate is one of political suicide.

5:53 pm, May 30, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well the Akehurst triangulation strategy of out-Torying the Tories is such a brilliant plan for winning a fourth term that today Labour got its lowest poll score for sixty years.

Given that this is on the back of 11 years of unremitting "New Labour", the signals are quite clear that Labour must stick with the Blairite plan and that a turn to the left would be disaster.

7:42 pm, May 30, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

The Crewe campaign was certainly not about mobilising core voters - how can you do that with the current mistaken policies? It was a right wing, populist NL campaign centred on chauvinism - and people weren't fooled. As for London - 20% ahead of the national standing isn't at all bad....repeat those figures nationally and you don't get a Tory government.

You are ignoring the reality of electoral statistics. The turnout at the last two elections was well down on 97. Many of the 97 voters were Tory and came over to Labour as a one off. That's why we ended up with such a ridiculous majority. A more realistic aim is a majority of 50-60 in a winning year. To get that sort of majority, we don't have to worry about keeping natural Tories on board. Next time, they will be back with the Tories and turnout - unless Labour voters stay away instead - is more likely to be nearer 70%

And what NL haven't provided with is your wishlist. Public services are weighed down with unnecessary targets and bureaucracy (ask anyone who works in the public sector). Taxes cannot be reduced unless services are also cut - you get what you pay for, and if people really do want tax cuts, then what they want is a Tory government. More and more people in prison hasn't improved Labour's standing on crime, because its an ineffective strategy and doesn't work. They simply return to the streets fitter and more knowledgeable about crime. The 42 day limit simply prevents other liberal or Muslim voters from voting for us but frankly, neither core voters nor swing voters care about it much, certainly not in terms of making a voting choice - but its just plain wrong, in any case.

There may well be long term demographic trends: but rather look towards reducing the LibDem vote than aiming our appeal at people who are natural Tories. Core voters aren't only council tenants, Luke - there are plenty of public sector and middle class voters who are potentially sympathetic to a social democratic party. Your problem is that your preferred coalition leaves those voters with the LD's whilst you chase after natural Tories who only ever voted for us once! The coalition of 97 is finished and won't be returning - so a new one is required.

9:06 pm, May 30, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luke, you can't mobilise your core vote for a one off by election. Our core vote, or anyone's core vote are not fools, and cannot be bought off with a few slogans and desperate last minute policy u turns.Our problem is the centre ground are deserting us for the Tories- amazingly we've allowed ourselves to be viewed as authoritarian bureaucrats in contrast to the 'liberal' Tories- while our core vote has had to swallow a whole raft of unpalatable policies from the war in Iraq to the 10p tax fiasco.No one cares about 42 day detention, no one cares about ID cards, being 'tough' is not a virtue if you are also wrong.

Labour needs to stake out a position for itself distinct from the Tories and Clegg's right wing Lib Dems.And I'm not talking about 1983 all over again. Housing is now a massive issue, 4 million on local authority waiting lists...there's a start...a popular policy and one that addresses a real social need affecting millions of families.

9:41 pm, May 30, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luke, interesting big perspective - over the last 30 years - on Labour's dilemma in your most recent post which subsequent posters choose to ignore.

I think your call is right on that and I think you are also right that some recovery of ground is possible from an attack on the Conservative position - Cameron is flaky, see today's Daily Mail, the rest of his team and his policies on offer are unconvincing.

There are many problems with Labour's presentation, however. Brown is cursed - it's now pointless rehearsing that argument.

But much of Brown's half-arsed socialist/authoritarian would-be legacy has to be comprehensively ditched.

The marzipan layers of switch voters are turned off Labour. But the reason they're heading towards the Conservatives is just to shit on Brown.

It's a negative switch.

They're not voting positively for the Conservative party.

2:43 pm, May 31, 2008


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