Performance against expectations

It was always expected that the Conservatives would lose some council seats to Labour last week. The seats we were defending were last fought four years ago when Labour were going through a very bad time indeed.

In my own case, when I stood for Bransty four years ago it was a calculated risk - it's the one ward in Copeland which regularly changes hands, delivering kicks to prominent members of both the Conservative and Labour parties at regular intervals. In the event the risk paid off four years ago but not this year: the number of people who voted for me last week was within two votes of the number who voted for me four years ago but the Labour vote had gone up.

The Local Government Chronicle had predicted that the Conservatives would have net losses equal to a thousand of the five thousand council seats defended last week. But as ConHome put it, "The voters failed to fall into line with the expert modelling prepared for them by Rallings and Thrasher."

What nobody had expected was that we would actually gain more seats from the Lib/Dems than our losses, which were more modest than had been expected, to Labour, leaving us with more seats and councils. In Copeland constituency while we lost three Copeland Borough seats to Labour we held fifteen, and won the Keswick and Derwent county seat from the Lib/Dems in a by-election.

It is exceptionally rare for a party in government to have a net gain of seats in local elections. And all sorts of people made predictions of much larger Tory losses.

The Times had predicted that the Conservatives "will lose the most - around 900 seats and 35 councils." Note they said "will" rather than "may."

The Independent said that Labour was "on track" to make 1,000 net gains. But they warned this was just mean they had got back to where they were in 1999 - a year Conservatives made huge gains. Anything short of that would be a "failure."

"Tories face poll rout," the Sunday Mirror told its readers five days ago.

Well, as I know to my cost we took knocks in places. But considering that painful measures which the present govenment is having to take to deal with the massive deficit inherited from the previous Labour government, our losses were astonishingly modest. And overall we held first place in the equivalent share of the national vote (ahead of Labour), took more seats than we lost, and gained councils.


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