Tory Juggernaut Rolls On: ‘Bellwether State’ Nuneaton Sees Labour Crushed in Local Elections

HARTLEPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 07: People walk past a giant inflatable representation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson outside the Mill House Leisure Centre where the count process for the Hartlepool Parliamentary By-election is taking place on May 07, 2021 in Hartlepool, England. Hartlepool will decide between returning a Labour Party …
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Britain’s governing Conservatives have had a good night in local elections across the United Kingdom, with bellwether constituency Nuneaton’s Tory leader saying he is “absolutely ecstatic” over the landslide there.

Councils, local authorities, police and crime commissioners, and regional mayors were all up for election across parts of the United Kingdom on Thursday. While many areas do not count overnight, Nuneaton and Bedworth — a favourite for political watchers as a borough with a good track record of declaring early and being a strong indicator of the national trend — has declared already, and has shown a historic performance for the Conservatives.

On an embarrassing night for the troubled Labour party, the red mayor, local party leader, and deputy party leader all lost their seats to Conservatives. In all, the Tories won 15 of the 17 seats up for grabs, giving the Conservatives 24 seats on the council to Labour’s 7.

Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council has been controlled by Labour for 41 of the 48 years since it was created in 1973. The new Tory leader in the town said of historically strong-Labour council seats that had gone blue, “The red wall has crumbled”. The town’s Conservative Member of Parliament Marcus Jones said he was “absolutely ecstatic”, reports the Coventry Telegraph.

Nuneaton is a former coal mining and light industrial centre that struggled with deindustrialisation but since reinvented itself as a logistics hub and commuter town. In many respects, its political genesis mirrors many other towns in England’s Midlands and further afield. In the wake of the Brexit vote, it was recognised as a so-called bellwether seat — an electoral area that can be used as a key indicator of political trends.

Nuneaton had a Conservative MP during the Thatcher years, a Labour MP during the Blair years, and has had a Conservative MP throughout the Cameron years to the present day. It voted overwhelmingly for Brexit and its declaration early after the referendum was one of the first solid signs Britain had indeed voted to leave the European Union.

Again reflecting the national trend, results were varied across the town. In one ward, the Conservatives won by just four votes but in another, their vote share was over three times that of all other candidates added together.

And indeed, the early Nuneaton result today appears to reflect results across the rest of England where results have been declared so far. The Conservatives have also gained control of councils in Dudley, Harlow, and Northumberland. Nationwide, at the time of publication, Labour has lost 56 councillors and the Conservatives have won 54.

Thursday’s election took place on the 11th anniversary of the Conservatives taking power nationally in the 2010 general election. That after so long in opposition Labour has failed again to make any serious inroads into returning to power is already being discussed as a major problem for party leader Keir Starmer. Pleading for more time and apparently seeking to head off a leadership challenge — Sir Keir has only been in post a year after he took the reigns from the hard-left and also unsuccessful Jeremy Corbyn — a “Labour source” was reported by the Telegraph to have said:

The message from voters is clear and we have heard it… Labour has not yet changed nearly enough for voters to place their trust in us. We understand that. We are listening. And we will now redouble our efforts.

[The party will now] accelerate the programme of change in our party, to win back trust and faith of working people across Britain. People don’t want to hear excuses. Keir [Starmer] has said he will take responsibility for these results – and he will take responsibility for fixing it and changing the Labour Party for the better.

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