Rebekak Paczek from Snapdragon Consulting offers her pre-election analysis.
It’s election fever in England and tensions are rising.
There is a very real prospect of UKIP taking seats in a number of local authorities. Not only that, but there is also the potential of UKIP holding the balance of power in some authorities where they may take three or four seats. This could mean that, come the end of May when the dust settles, we have a number of local authorities across the country with UKIP representatives on the Planning Committee, which will be interesting.
UKIP seem to be taking a BANANA approach to development (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything). They are particularly standing candidates in areas where local authorities are under pressure to release greenbelt land, presenting themselves as the saviours of this green and pleasant land. In Surrey this clearly means protecting the golf courses, which currently take up more land than homes do.
The general consensus appears to be that the Lib Dems are not going to be in for a particularly fun night at the count. Nick Clegg has been on the airwaves trying to implement a pre-emptive disaster-management strike. According to him, the Lib Dems were once the protest party but not anymore, this has gone to UKIP. Which begs the question of what the Lib Dems actually are now as Clegg doesn’t appear to know.
The Conservatives probably won’t have much to celebrate either but then it is the final election before a General Election so you expect the governing party to perform badly – and this is exactly what they will be saying on results day. They will also no doubt take comfort in the demise of their coalition partners and will be talking up the improving national economic situation as a beacon of hope for their own prospects for 2015.
Given that the Labour Party appear to be devoid of much to say and have also seen votes and members disappear over the dark side to UKIP, they may also have worries. Judging by the latest Party Election Broadcast they should possibly take a lesson from Thumper ‘if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say nothing at all.’ They also appear to be suffering from a form of selective amnesia – not only have they forgotten that they commissioned Kate Barker to investigate land-banking which demonstrated no evidence of land-banking and have now identified land-banking as the solution to all problems in the housing market; they also appear to have forgotten that they introduced tuition fees and have put out leaflets accusing the Lib Dems of lying about tuition fees. Never let the facts get in the way of a good election campaign.
It will be interesting to watch those authorities across the country where it has traditionally been a two horse race between Conservative and Lib Dems. Those Labour members of the electorate who used to vote tactically, voting Lib Dem just to keep the Tories out, will have an interesting dilemma.
We could also see the rise of the Independents this year. Whether that will be an ongoing trend or is symptomatic of the disillusionment with the establishment parties which is generally taken out during local elections will not be clear until 2015.
In London, Labour will be expecting to do well, increasing their lead in places such as Lambeth and Southwark. They are also hopeful of taking the Mayoralty in Tower Hamlets – although voting here has very little to do with national sentiment and we can expect to see allegations of voter fraud post-election regardless of the result.
In the East, UKIP are certainly looking to try to get a foothold. They are standing a significant number of candidates in various local authorities in Essex in particular. In Hertfordshire, UKIP won seats on the County Council last year and came second in a number of other seats suggesting that they are by no means the fourth party. Since this point, unhappiness with the main parties has only increased, so this could be interesting.
Most of the large metropolitans also have elections this year, many of which are currently secure Labour councils but this does not mean that they aren’t at risk of losing a number of seats. In some areas where the Lib Dems have polled strongly, Labour may gain seats, in others we could again see the rise of UKIP, Green and Independent parties.
The South West has traditionally been the bastion of support for the Lib Dems on the national level, and a fight between Conservative and Lib Dem on the local level. This may now be seriously under threat. Judging by the number of very large UKIP billboards in fields and farmland across Devon and Cornwall it would appear that UKIP have a strong core of support – certainly amongst the farming community. And who could blame them, having been shafted by successive governments of different political persuasions it is probably unsurprising that they see a highly protectionist party as more appealing. There are very few local elections in the south west this year but any surge of support for UKIP in the EU elections in the south west could be an indication of things to come in the locals and General Election in the region in 2015, so certainly one to watch.
Of course, the biggest danger for the main parties is a low turn-out. Not only because this will increase the share of the vote likely to go to smaller and independent parties but also because a low turn-out is damaging for democracy – and incredibly difficult to spin your way out of.
Whatever happens, it is unlikely to be dull and we can all look forward to the cringe-worthy and completely baseless and desperate explanations of whichever parties have been deemed to have performed particularly badly on the Today programme the next day.
Snapdragon are delighted to launch 'Analysis' - detailed borough by borough analysis for London and the East of England, providing a good snapshot of the picture nationwide:
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