An election day commentary from company director Spencer Neal.
As the polling stations swing into action and dogs pose for their Insta moment, most of the punditry is focused on how the 2023 Local Elections are a crucial examination of Labour’s electability at the next General Election.
Online blogs and newspaper columns alike drill down into the mechanics of expectation management and the local, regional and national traction that the political groups, from Labour and Conservatives to the Greens, independents and resident representatives, have achieved in each ward, district and borough. Most commentators acknowledge that not all councillors and mayors are up for re-election and that some parts of the United Kingdom have no elections at all.
What stands out for us at Keeble Brown is that while most commentators offer well considered predictions about what the expected swings and shifts will be when the counts are in, few seem to address the consequential trends.
For example, while respected commentators point out that these elections are an opportunity for people to influence their local services and policies, the main insights address the likely effect on Westminster.
What would be more useful is insight into how Britain’s outdated electoral system causes voters to make logical but counter-productive choices. Only at a local level do people feel that they can successfully opt for candidates outside of the main political groups. These are the candidates that will do better than expected locally.
Even with subdued turnout and more spoiled ballots, it is likely that the Conservatives will not do as badly as some suggest, Labour will not do as well as some hope and the Lib Dems will only do well on the margins.
The important point is to ask what this will mean. For a start it will exacerbate the housing crisis. The UK’s housing crisis was acknowledged before Covid. It has only become worse since then. These local elections will only make development harder, likewise with any sort of reform to planning and development.
Perhaps more fundamentally, the 2023 local elections will add more tension to the already strained relationships between central and local government, as the local tier’s political priorities become more estranged from the party politics of Westminster.