Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Conservatives are More of a National Party Than the LibDems or Labour

It seems I was right about Councils who do not have representation from one party or another. These are the figures...
In England there are 19 councils without a Conservative, 38 without a LibDem and a whopping 68 without a Labour councillor.

In Scotland there are 8 councils without a Conservative, 11 without a LibDem and 5 without a Labour councillor

In Wales there are 10 councils without a Conservative, 5 without a LibDem
but all of them have a Labour councillor

So the totals are 37 councils without a Conservative, 54 without a LibDem
and 73 without a Labour councillor.

So the next time Ming Campbell or Tony Blair says that the Conservatives are not a national party, let's home someone will take them to task over it. In fact, the LibDems have more 'councillor-less' councils in the North than the Conservatives. There are a massive ten London Boroughs where they have no councillors at all, compared to the Tories 2 and Labour's 3.

A friend at PPS Public Affairs has just sent me these figures, showing the number of Councillors each Party has had at various points since 1973

1973 (New boundaries)
Con 7,709
Lab 9,781
Lib 1,427
Oth 5,183

1979 (General Election year, change of Government)
Con 12,222
Lab 7,410
Lib 1,059
Oth 4,388

1989 (10 years of Conservative Government)
Con 9,242
Lab 8,601
Lib 3,518
Oth 2,958

1997 (General Election year, change of Government)
Con 4,449
Lab 10,608
Lib 4,754
Oth 2,076

Con 8,482
Lab 6,105
Lib 4,708
Oth 2,229

Points to note:-

1. The decline in 'others' has been reversed with more small party representatives
2. The Conservatives are nowhere near their 1979 peak
3. Labour's position in local government is its worst for decades

Tonight at 9pm on 18 Doughty Street we'll be previewing the local elections and those in Wales and Scotland with David Canzini, former Director of Campaigning at CCO, Joe Allen from Morgan Allen Moore (Wales) and the Wales Elects 2007 blog, and David Boothroyd from Indigo Public Affairs and the Elections Website.

UPDATE: We're still keen ton get a Scottish elections expert on the show tonight. If anyone knows someone who might be free, please get in touch.


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Anonymous said...

Your argument is only true for England. Yes, "The Conservatives are More of an (English) National Party than" etc. But then we already knew that.

Inamicus said...

Of those 19, a significant chunk are in the North East - Newcastle, Gateshead, Durham, Wear Valley, Easington, Wansbeck, Derwentside....

When it comes to the crunch, the Tories are well represented on rural districts but not so good in urban areas north of the M62.

Anonymous said...

Foolish Iain. You can't just compare councils like that! They're not all the same size, and outside of cities (i.e. where there are fewer people) there are generally both county and district councils, artificially inflating the number of councils and of councillors. A better system by far would be to compare elected members, nationwide, from roughly equal electoral units. Like constituency MPs for example. And last time I checked, the Tories had precious few outside of the county seats in the South East of England.

So there.

Anonymous said...

That's a pretty big generalisation to draw from the data you have.

Unknown said...

Iain, if its possible you ought to examine how many more councils are now Labour-less since the 2001 and 2005 general election. We have many people within the party saying that you have to have local representation on a council in order to have a chance at winning the parlimentary seat, I'd like to see if this is true...

Anonymous said...

Arrant nonsense, Iain - and you know it.

The exercise you've undertaken is like saying that religion is more popular nationally than football because more towns have churches than major football stadia; ignoring the fact that football stadia hold more than 40,000 people and churches hold, ooh, about 200 when they're full. Which is never.

In reality, to measure national popularity of either, you'd measure the number of ADHERENTS in every locality, not an inaccurate proxy measure such as churches or stadia. That's hard to do for football and religion (you'd need a dirty great census); but luckily for us, democracy provides us with a ready-made measure - numbers of votes.

So why not compare the numbers of votes each party got across all wards in every council and see what that throws up? Methinks that the Tories might have votes piled high in individual pockets in many councils - but not distributed evenly, like Labour's.

Gavin said...

Another point to note is that there is a wider gap between the CON high/low points, than there is between LAB's high/low. In other words, LAB's support remains steadier over time, whereas CON support swings more wildly. This might suggest that LAB has a bedrock of voters who will stick with LAB no matter what, whereas CON support is more fluid/variable.

Anonymous said...

Do the Tories control any of the major northern cities?

Anonymous said...

Oh Iain, You're adding 1+1 and getting 3.

Anonymous said...

As is often pointed out the Tories don't have any councillors on Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester etc.

What usually gets forgotten is that they won 1 if not 2 general elections without electing any MPs in those cities so, in terms of winning a General Election it's not really a relevant factor.

Possibly more relevant is the Tory failings to reverse their decline in Wales & Scotland - Whilst they never had many seats in recent years they probably had 15-20 from there in the 92 election and those could be crucial seats come the next General Election.

Whether that decline is reversed this May - well we'll know in a few weeks!

Anonymous said...


Do these figures include both District and County seats in the two tier areas? I suspect thats where the inflated Tory figures come from.

Newmania said...

Scotland is the key and a glance at the machinations going on in their Parliamenr (soi disant), tells you all you need to know about PR and its horrific effect. I noticed Iain that you let your guests get away with some silly assumptions about the Union which I am under the impression you do not share .

The odious prospect of the English taxpayer being held to ransom by the political class determined to save their precious "World standing" , in the face of all sense is becoming real. It will be a minor Party auction in Scotland giving away god knows what with the labour Party and Parts of the Cons willing to go along ,and us paying .

Its time for our mac-D I V O R C E

Anonymous said...

I've always hated the way local government election night talks about "councils won" and lost and "no overall control" and so on, as if "councils" were like constituencies - they are not of course, varying hugely in size. So no Tory councillor on say Sheffield would be much, much more important than no LibDem in say Scunthorpe. The whole local government results arena is a playground for cheap spin and pathetic inter-party backbiting of a particularly brainless variety.

Anonymous said...

Good post Iain. Very interesting

Anonymous said...

Iain, The total number of Councillors doest seem to be consistent from Election to Election. Have you factored this in. It seems there were a few thousand more councillors 30 yrs ago than there are now.

Chris Paul said...

And, ahem, there are LESS seats in total which might have been worth mentioning.

And, ahem, your holdings of seats can go up as well as down.

In Manchester there has been a slight Tory revival and they are second in a seat or two and a close third in their top target (City Centre) partly thanks to a lack of an Independent in 06.

They are also helped there by the fact that some of the high-churn short-lease residents in the newer blocks cannot seem to see how Manchester works and vote more or less on national lines.

They are not however competing AT ALL in most of the areas that they owned - either well-to-do or sometime Tory council estates - and that is of great interest to the watcher.

It is going to be interesting to see the list of Tory candidates when these are published.

Davie/id's mission to the estates has seen him doing business with some very interesting characters indeed.

Well ready for foot-in-mouth incidents of all kinds if they have been selected ...

Don't think it is very likely to win a Westminster Seat with NO councillors. Though it is certainly possible with a minority and even a very small minority.

Keith Bradley won in 1987 just one month after Tory gains in LG election in Man Wit.

And Gerald Kaufman has been whacking Lib Dems in Man Gort, however many council seats they hold (though they did lose three of seven in 06).

All interesting but also kinda feeble as others have noted.

Anonymous said...

Rather than give figures for 2 minor parties in Scotland,, what is the SNP position?

Anonymous said...

Well there are 11 less conservative councillors in Tendring as they have resigned from the party and formed their own party.
There seems to be trouble ahead for Douglas Carswell the local mp as it transpires he lied to the local association and has been found out by the local papers.

David Lindsay said...

inamicus, there is a large body of UKIP-like, Peter Hitchens-like Derwentside Councillors belonging to a registered political party called "Derwentside Independents", so many, in fact, that if the old Consett Urban District Council still existed, then it would not now be under Labour control. Their Leader put up against Hilary Armstrong at the General Election and took more votes than the reduction in the Labour majority.

It says a great deal that, here as in several other parts of the North, such people do not feel able to put up as Tories (indeed, the Tories put up against them), and wouldn't win if they did, but do a roaring electoral trade explictly as Not The Tory Party.

Similarly, the success of the No campaign in the regional assembly referendum was in no small measure due to its absolute refusal to associate with the Conservative Party as such.

And how Cameroon are Tory Councillors in the North, or indeed in Scotland, Wales, the Midlands, the West Country or East Anglia? Not very, I suspect.

Chris Whiteside said...


The really interesting thing about this is that all the major parties have problems in many parts of the country not just getting councillors elected, but even getting candidates nominated, especially in the North. I think this reflects the fact that many people think that no political party represents them - but it won't get any better while major parties cannot even put up candidates.

I find it interesting to compare the number of candidates nominated last week in St Albans, where I step down from the council in a few weeks, and Copeland where I now live and am standing this time.

St Albans, where the parliamentary seat was Labour until less than two years ago, had significant representation on the council for all three parties, but Labour are now down to single figures and fighting desperately to hold all three of the wards where they still have councillors.

But all three major parties, and the greens, are fighting every available seat in St Albans.

By contrast, in Copeland where there is an all-out election for 51 councillors, no party has been able to field 51 candidates. The Conservatives are the only party contesting every ward. Labour, who hold the council, have fielded candidates in 23 of 25 wards but failed to contest two wards where sitting Conservative councillors have been returned unopposed. There are only three Lib/Dem candidates, two independents and no green party candidates.

This council election is the twelfth time in my life I have stood for public office and it is the first time I have not had any Lib/Dem opponents.

Both the British National Party and the English Democrats attempted to put up candidates in Copeland and failed to get the necessary ten supporting signatures.

We know, because some of the people they approached promptly told their local tory activists about it, that the BNP tried quite hard to put up a candidate against one particular Conservative councillor who they have labelled an "Enemy of the people."

In my opinion it would be better for democracy if all three major parties could fight every council seat to give the electorate a proper choice. I think the lack of choice offered to the voters is a major cause for concern. However, it is at least a good sign that however disillusioned many people are with politicians, they are not all turning to thuggish extremists if the BNP is having trouble finding the necessary ten signatures to put up candidates.