I’ve blogged a lot about council by-elections this year. Election Maps is run by a heart surgeon as a hobby, and he produces excellent graphics and data. On Christmas Eve he published this. It shows the aggregate results of all the council by-elections held during 2021. It shows the Conservatives, Independents, Labour, SNP and UKIP all losing seats and the Greens, Liberal-Democrats and Plaid Cymru all gaining seats. In my last blog I mentioned the Green Party gaining eight seats in by-elections over the last few months and now this shows them gaining twelve over the year. It does not mention the main round of local elections held each May, where of course many more seats change hands, and where over the last few years the Green Party has been making impressive gains, as I’ve previously reported on this blog, here and here
On this blog I have frequently argued in favour of some kind of progressive alliance. It is the only way in which we will rid ourselves of this ghastly government and bring in some sensible and more democratic ways forward. Although I’m a passionate supporter of the Green Party I want to celebrate the LibDems historic victory in the North Shropshire by election. They have comfortably overturned a huge Tory majority. It is the third biggest swing to the LibDems, or Liberals, since the Second World War. It is such an interesting result for a number of reasons.
There was no formal progressive alliance, but many Labour and Green voters lent their votes to the LibDems as it became apparent that they were the best bet to get rid of the Tories. This is very much evidence for a kind of bottom up led progressive alliance, led by voters rather than the leadership of national political parties.
The Tory vote collapsed, but interestingly these voters did not switch to the far right parties. Reform, Reclaim and UKIP all stood and all got pretty risible votes. The three main left or centre left parties, LibDems, Labour and Greens, got 61.5% of the vote between them, which given the nature of North Shropshire’s political history and the makeup Shropshire Council is pretty remarkable.
It is also interesting that North Shropshire was strongly pro-Brexit, yet now has swung decisively toward one the UK’s most strongly pro-EU parties. Perhaps now the reality of Brexit is sinking-in. It has been the greatest self inflicted damage on the economy, society and reputation of this country. Reversing it and re-joining the EU will take decades, but eventually that will become possible.
Every Friday morning I read the Tweets from the English Elections Centre and Britain Elects, as most local council by-elections take place on Thursdays, and every Thursday there have been a few local elections. Over these past few months both the LibDems and the Greens have been taking seats off the Tories pretty well every week. Some of the swings have been impressive, and often some kind of tactical voting or informal alliance emerges and either the Greens or LibDems focus on one seat. The collapse of the Tory vote in rural and small town England is not confined to North Shropshire. Over the last few months the Greens have won victories in Horndean Downs (East Hampshire) Ardingly & Balcombe (Mid Sussex) Gorrell (Canterbury) Hartfield, (Wealden) Castle (Tonbridge& Malling) Highfield (Ashford) and two in Brundall (Broadland). These eight Green victories have all been in the Tory heartlands of southeast England. The LibDems have also won a good number of new local council seats, again mainly at the Tories expense. Even Labour has won the odd few seats, but less I think than the Greens or LibDems.
The tide seems to be swinging against the Tories. I, and millions of others, am delighted by that. The Greens and LibDems, and a few of the Labour MP’s, are most enthusiastic for a progressive alliance. The SNP and Plaid Cymru would have much to contribute. Still most of the Labour leadership hold on the outdated idea that winning as a single party is the only worthwhile way to win. I would argue that alliances often bring out the best of both parties. Our county of Herefordshire is better governed than it has been for many years, thanks to the Green and Independent coalition now in charge. Most of Europe is very well served by such coalitions and with any fair voting system coalitions become inevitable.