Local elections 2013

Sandcastles, lettuce and a big train: where Ukip won and why

Anyone who watched the latest episode of Mary Queen of the High Street will have been mildly amused to see the retail diva encounter the good burghers of Margate. Urbane, fabulous and witty, with a mission tinged an air liberal imperialism, as if ‘to explore strange new worlds’. One can almost imagine her government reports: ‘It’s commercial life, Prime Minister, but not as we know it.’ Suffice to say, much as some of the animosity was no doubt hammed up for the cameras, not every inhabitant of Planet Thanet welcomed Portas with open arms. What project more symbolises the Cameroon ‘big society’ effete tofu-laden conservatism than Operation Portas? And how

Local elections 2013: in numbers

335: total councillors lost by the Tories 291: seats gained by Labour 124: losses sustained by the Lib Dems 139: seats gained by UKIP 147 UKIP council seats after today’s results 10 councils lost by the Tories 2 councils gained by Labour 13 councils now in overall control, up 8 17: the largest gain by UKIP in any council, in Kent 24: the most councillors gained by Labour in one local authority, in Durham 6,505: Emma Lewell-Buck’s majority as the new Labour MP for South Shields, down from 11,109 achieved by David Miliband in 2010

Isabel Hardman

Sources tell Coffee House Cameron will mark an end to ‘fruitcakes’ name-calling

We could see a further tightening of the reconciliatory line that the Tories seem to be adopting on UKIP when the PM gives his response to the local elections later today. I hear from very well-placed sources in the Tory party that David Cameron plans to mark an end to the name-calling, acknowledging that it is time to take seriously the concerns of those who decided to vote UKIP yesterday. The Tory lines to take – reported by Guido – include this quote: ‘Of course we understand why some people didn’t vote for us – we need to focus even more on the things that matter to hardworking people: turning


Was it The Spectator wot won it? Nigel Farage seems to think so

Ukip is the big story of the day, clearing out councils across the country in yesterday’s local elections. Mr Steerpike was interested to see the above picture on the wires as Nigel Farage took his victory lap around Westminster this morning. Behind every election victory is a copy of the Spectator. To find out more about why Ukip are winning subscribe from just £1 a week here.

Isabel Hardman

Lib Dems try to avoid their own local election jitters

The dominant narrative in the build-up to these local elections has been all about UKIp vs the Tories, with a bit of angst about Labour’s southern mission thrown in. The Lib Dems didn’t really get a look in. They had moved to a reasonably stable position after romping home in the Eastleigh by-election, but today’s results could change that. Their awful showing in South Shields – coming 7th – will shake the party, but so will any surprise big losses. The party has already failed to take control of Somerset County Council, which was one local authority it had focused a great deal of effort on. Sending out Tim Farron

Welcome to Ukipland: where Nigel Farage’s dreams come true

‘Where do you expect to do well in these local elections?’ I asked the Ukip spokesman. ‘England!’ he boomed down the phone. On Wednesday afternoon, this seemed typical of Ukip’s bullish exuberance but judging by their predicted ‘phenomenal performance’ parts of Britain (like Boston) have become Ukipland overnight. Yesterday, I went to find some real Ukip voters in the Home Counties and discover why they have abandoned the three main parties. Nigel Farage stood in Buckingham at the 2010 general election and received just 17 per cent of the vote against Commons speaker John Bercow. The county of Buckinghamshire was once solid blue territory, but this green and pleasant corner of

Isabel Hardman

Tories now see ‘fruitcakes’ and ‘clowns’ as serious voters impatient for change

We’ve only had a few results through in the local elections, but already the parties are giving their verdict on the way last night worked for them. One thing to watch today is the development of a Tory line on UKIP. There hasn’t been one in the run-up to polling day, but will there be a concerted effort from the Conservative leadership to produce a clear message about what Nigel Farage’s success means for the Tories? Grant Shapps certainly managed to stick to the Tinkerbell strategy of trying not to say ‘UKIP’ or ‘Nigel Farage’ in his Today programme interview. But he also stuck to the sympathetic portrayal of those

Nigel Farage’s tax flip-flop shows us where he’s trying to take his party

We might this week have seen some scrutiny of UKIP candidates, but so far we’ve seen little scrutiny of their policies. But the better the party does, the more policy scrutiny it will start to come under. This is what makes UKIP’s changing tax policy so interesting. It tells us a lot about where Nigel Farage is trying to take his party. At the last election, UKIP was committed to a flat tax. There is an intellectual purity to this idea – see Allister Heath’s book on the subject – but it is hard to sell to voters as it would result in ‘the rich’ paying a lower rate. After

The Tories have failed to agree a line on UKIP

David Cameron’s refusal to say ‘UKIP’ on the radio today was rather entertaining, but it does highlight a strange problem that the Conservative party has brought upon itself for these local elections. Here’s his exchange with Martha Kearney, which you can listen to below, from 8m 49s in: Cameron: ‘My role is to get around the country and I’ve enjoyed doing it in the last couple of weeks, to get around the country and to talk about the government’s policies, local policies, what the Conservatives are doing. I think there is a real appetite for…’ Kearney: Is it a strategy, not to say UKIP? Cameron: No, not at all, it’s

Local elections: Tory leadership prepares MPs for the worst

The Tory leadership is getting increasingly nervous that the party isn’t sufficiently braced for bad local election results this Thursday. They’re worried that too many MPs assume the party won’t lose much more than 300 seats. The problem is that, for understandable reasons, MPs are treating all of CCHQ’s dire predictions — one source there is talking about 750 loses if the UKIP wave doesn’t break — merely as expectations management. In an attempt to persuade people of how bad the results could be, senior figures have taken to showing people this bar graph and map which illustrate the Tories’ current dominance. Their argument is that there is only way

Isabel Hardman

Dealing with the UKIP threat

How do the Tories deal with UKIP? The party likes to split on most issues, and it has got a nice little fault line running across it at the moment on whether to squash the party as ‘fruitcakes’, or, as Conor Burns eloquently argued on Coffee House this morning, engage with the problems and anxieties that are driving Tory voters towards Nigel Farage. If UKIP does have a good showing in the local elections later this week, one side will blame the other for taking the wrong course. MPs like Burns will worry that colleagues such as Ken Clarke will have insulted their own voters, or that the party’s obsession

Voters hold Ukip to a different standard: there is no point in attacking their people or their policies

Some of the coverage of the background and views of UKIP local election candidates has been met with a glee born of a belief that it might be the silver bullet to puncture the party’s recent rise in support. I have an intrinsic suspicion that this will prove not to be so. Last night I was away from news and twitter. Before reading the papers in any detail I sent a tweet saying: ‘Attacking UKIP over policy or people won’t work. Genuinely responding to legitimate concerns of people tempted by them may well do.’ I later read Lord Ashcroft’s perceptive observations that sum up my own views precisely. To try to tackle

Tories keen to exploit Labour’s Southern Discomfort in local elections

David Cameron’s local election kick-off speech today notably contained no reference to UKIP, but 12 mentions of Labour. The Conservative leader and his colleagues concerned with campaigns are on a damage-limitation exercise about the party’s chances in the local elections, and as well as taking the attack to Labour on the policy front – arguing that the Tories have freed councils from Labour’s restrictions, kept council tax down and reduced local government waste – a plank of their strategy involves attacking Labour’s prowess in southern council seats. The key phrase which you can expect to hear whenever there is evidence that the Labour campaign is faltering in the south is