Elections, Elections, Elections: What You Need To Know

Westminster at Night [Image: Charlie Marshall]
Thursday’s elections mark a moment of particular significance in the political calendar. The political landscape north of the border is changing at rates never experienced nor expected; what once was a sea of red is now flooded with yellow and, after Thursday’s results,  pronounced tinges of blue. Labour remain the biggest party in Wales, but Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives retain notable levels of support, not to mention UKIP picking up their first ever seats in the Assembly. The results of the UK local elections serve as a barometer of the moods and attitudes of the electorate, and shed light on who we can expect to occupy Number 10 after the General Election in 2020. And to round it all off – the London mayoral election. The duel between Sadiq Khan (#YesWeKhan) and Zac Goldsmith (#BackZac) has dominated the headlines for what seems like an eternity. Yesterday saw control of City Hall fall into the hands of Sadiq Khan – Labour’s London-born, working class candidate. After 8 years of Boris and the Conservatives, Labour are back at the helm in the capital.

Scottish Parliament

  • SNP win historic third term, choosing to rule as a minority government having marginally failed to win an absolute majority.
  • Conservatives overtake Labour as the second party.
  • Labour lose over one-third of their seats.
  • Greens overtake Liberal Democrats.
The Scottish Parliament – at Holyrood – holds power over devolved matters (those affecting the day-to-day lives of Scottish citizens). Members of Scottish Parliament – or MSPs – are elected in a slightly more complicated fashion than MPs into Westminster. Of the 129 residing MSPs, 73 are elected to represent individual constituencies. The remaining 56 are elected via the Additional Member System – a system of proportional representation; 7 MSPs from each of Scotland’s 8 electoral regions make up the remaining seats. With respect to Thursday, the leading story without doubt the impressive performance of the Conservatives at the expense of Labour, not to mention the continued strength and traction of the Scottish National Party.

The Verdict:

Nicola Sturgeon (SNP leader): “We have tonight made history…I will lead this country with confidence, courage, ambition and imagination”
Kezia Dugdale (Scottish Labour leader): “Heartbroken…we’ll keep fighting for our values and rebuild”

Welsh Assembly

  • Labour fall two seats short of majority; likely to rule as minority (as in previous term).
  • Plaid Cymru the second party; Conservatives a close third.
  • UKIP gain an impressive 7 seats, their first ever in the Welsh Assembly.

The Welsh Assembly, much like the Scottish Parliament, holds responsibility over those areas of policy devolved from Westminster. Via the Additional Member System, 40 of the 60 Assembly Members (AMs) are elected to represent individual constituencies, with the remaining 20 comprising of candidates from the country’s 5 electoral regions. A huge shock came in the form of Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood (remember her from last year’s General Election debates?) taking Rhondda – traditionally a Labour heartland – by a mammoth majority of over 3,500 votes.

The Verdict:

Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru leader): “A new dawn is about to break in Wales. People have voted for change”
Nigel Farage (UKIP leader): “A big breakthrough night for us”

UK Local Council Elections

  • Very little change in terms of council control.
  • Labour performs poorly, yet retains several key councils many predicted to be losses.
  • Liberal Democrats and UKIP gain seats.
  • National share of the vote: 31% Labour, 30% Conservatives, 15% Liberal Democrats, UKIP 12% (BBC prediction)

It is the tradition – and expectation – for opposition parties to make significant gains in local elections. Whilst strong performances in opposition are no ticket to Downing Street, they are often indicative of future electoral success. Consequently, the lack of progress (in terms of taking control of seats and councils) is cause for concern for the Labour faithful. Whilst some attribute the disappointing results to a torrid past couple of months for the party, others argue that voters are rejecting Jeremy Corbyn as a credible leader and potential Prime Minister. Either way, many have pointed out how the in-fighting within the Tory party (largely, but not limited to, arguments over the upcoming EU referendum) spelled a perfect opportunity for Labour to capitalise, something which they have evidently failed to do.

The Verdict:

David Cameron (British PM): “Local election day for sitting Prime Ministers is meant to be a day of dread…it wasn’t like that today”
Jeremy Corbyn (Leader of the Opposition): “We hung on…our party is standing up against the grotesque levels of inequality in Britain”

London Mayoral Election

  • Labour’s Sadiq Khan comfortably elected as London mayor for the next 4 years
  • Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith second place
  • Many argue election tarnished by vitriolic, divisive nature of Goldsmith campaign

Few can argue that Boris has transformed – and somewhat celebritized – the role of London mayor with his unique persona, what some characterise as confident and charismatic, others slapdash and scruffy. It is yet to be seen what sort of leader Sadiq Khan, a constituency MP since 2005, will turn out to be. What is under no doubt, however, is that London’s challenges of housing and transport, to name two from a vast list, are as pressing as ever. Londoners have decided he’s the best man for the job and he’ll be judged on delivering his manifesto commitments, improving the lives of the city’s 8.5 million residents and improving further the reputation of the capital on the global stage.

The Verdict:

Harriet Harman (former Labour Deputy Leader): “He’ll [Sadiq] be rolling up his sleeves and getting on with it”
Jemima Goldsmith (Zac Goldsmith’s sister): “Sad that Zac’s campaign did not reflect who I know him to be – an eco friendly, independent-minded politician with integrity”

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