As the dust is starting to settle after a night of bruising local election results there are some distinct patterns emerging. We are yet to have all results declared but my initial thoughts look unlikely to change.
The biggest but most unsurprising result is that the Liberal Democrats took a major beating. Many individual seats and indeed councils were lost to the Labour Party as the Lib Dems are seen to be shielding the Tory cuts. Moreover, Lib Dem voters feel let down by a party which has joined government but simply followed their partners. It should come as no surprise that it is here that Labour made ground.
The Labour Party, throughout England, made very substantial gains. Taking key councils in Sheffield, Liverpool and Manchester, to name a few, would look like an endorsement of Ed Miliband’s ‘turning point’. Furthermore, Labour virtually controls all Welsh councils as the Welsh Assembly coalition partner, Plaid Cymru, and the Lib Dems lose ground.
Based on the results from England and Wales, it would look as if Labour has done everything it needs to do to start becoming the governing party in a few years time. However, the Scottish results should be sobering.
The large winner is the SNP with both Labour and the Lib Dems losing key seats. The SNP has managed to do this without being the ‘party for independence’ but rather for important policy decisions such as free university tuition and free prescriptions. There is much debate as to whether this is sustainable and feasible to do (I seriously doubt it) but has certainly been popular.
The Labour Party cannot win the next general election without big gains in Scotland. Perhaps results would have been different if Labour sent Westminster ministers/activists to run in some key councils in Scotland and provided a vital foothold.
The South is dominated by the Tories where home county councils want and expect the cuts. Let’s be clear; Tory voters wholeheartedly expected the level of cuts and have maintained their support which is why the Tories have maintained their number of councils.
However, the real story for me is more of a social issue. As listed above, it is clear for me to see a distinct segregating of the UK as a whole: Scotland is SNP, Wales/North/Midlands is Labour and the South is Conservative. When was the last time the UK was this geographically partisan? Does this not highlight issues of fairness and equality but moreover integration?
This is the most compelling argument yet for a genuine need to rebalance the economy by sector, geography and power. Politicians have to see how divided the country is and that the priority is to reengage with the electorate.
United Kingdom we stand, divided kingdom we fall.