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Own up: How many of you stayed up into the wee hours to watch TV coverage of the local council elections?
If you did, you would have witnessed a curious phenomenon. As the Conservative Party lost seat after seat (at the time of writing they have lost 113 seats altogether) and Labour won seat after seat (currently 125 seats better-off), the pundits sitting around David Dimbleby on BBC1 started telling us this put Labour in the poor position!
This, we were told, was because UKIP’s performance heralded the arrival of “four-party politics” – but does anybody believe that? UKIP won protest votes against the UK Coalition government’s policies at a time when elections to the European Parliament were also taking place. Anti-immigration feelings have been stirred up and people have been led to believe – wrongly – that a vote for UKIP will cut off the flow.
In fact, UKIP did damage Labour in areas like Swindon, where they took working-class votes and enabled the Conservatives to hold that council with a slightly increased majority.
But the ‘Purple Peril’ did far more damage to the Conservatives, with Essex Man and Woman voting very strongly for it.
What does this mean, translated to the Westminster Parliament?
The answer is, it’s difficult to judge. Turnout was only around 36 per cent – half the number who take part in a general election – because faith in democracy is so low. This means any predictions are more likely to be wrong than right.
But if the results are replicated, then the Conservative Party will lose seats to UKIP and it is possible that Labour will become the majority party in a Hung Parliament, and then…
… UKIP will do a coalition deal with the Conservatives because Nigel Farage wants a taste of power, and we’ll end up with five more years of David Cameron.
We know they’re already talking about it because Michael Gove has denied it.
To avoid this, Labour will have to consolidate its gains and show that it can make a real difference where it wins.
A good start would be to cut the harmful social policies in Hammersmith and Fulham, which Labour took from the Tories last night. H&F was once dubbed David Cameron’s favourite council. Why? Well, a recent Guardian article showed that the council was selling off its housing stock at an increasingly accelerated rate, while forcing homeless people into temporary accommodation outside the borough. Ending this wrong-headed nonsense would be a good start.
The new Labour administration could re-examine the planned closure of Sulivan Primary School in Fulham, which won an award from London Mayor Boris Johnson at the end of last year after it “succeeded against the odds in improving pupils’ aspirations and achievements”. According to The Guardian (again), campaigners fighting to save Sulivan say it has been targeted because there are plans to turn the site into a new Free School, part of Michael Gove’s silly pet project that has been haemorrhaging money.
And Labour could halt the Earls Court Project redevelopment scheme, which will knock down elderly residents homes – buildings which are perfectly sound – in order to replace them with “impossibly expensive” flats.
The Guardian (yet again) states: “To the Tories of H&F, though, such things are of no value if there’s more money to be made from tearing them up, clearing them out, knocking them down… The council and its friends do not see what they are doing as wrecking. They see themselves as grand creators. They see those they would push aside not as citizens to be considered but non-believers, blockages, impediments; as inefficiencies that have to be squeezed out.”
Labour would score hugely if it took a stand against this merciless money-driven destruction of a neighbourhood that belongs to ordinary people. Elderly people, in fact. Not only are they vulnerable; they are also voters.
So let Hammersmith & Fulham become the example Labour holds up to the nation: “This is what we can do across the country, if you only give us the chance!”
One thing’s for sure – whatever Labour does there, The Guardian will be watching!
Results are still incoming from the council elections, so undoubtedly the ‘expert’ opinions will change before the end – and then we have the European election results to come on Sunday.
A quick anecdote about that: Yesterday evening Yr Obdt Srvt was at a meeting on a completely different subject (a local festival here in Mid Wales – I’m the organising committee’s secretary). Afterwards I was chatting with a friend about the election when a young man approached us in search of the nearest polling station.
My friend passed on the directions and the man thanked us and started on his way. “Don’t vote UKIP!” shouted my friend.
“I won’t!” was the response.
Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike
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