The GB local election results have now been decided: Using first past the post makes the counting process so much simpler. The BBC has a round up of the results here.
Essentially it seems that Labour did well but not well enough; the Conservatives did badly but not so badly as to be a disaster; the Liberal Democrats did disastrously but it was not a catastrophe. UKIP on the other hand did very well but it was not an earthquake.
The English local election results are, however, always even more difficult to analyse for national and Westminster trends than the NI results. As usual the turn out was low (36%) but in addition the seats being contested on this occasion were predominately the metropolitan areas and not the shire county councils. Finally since not all the council seats are up for re election changes tend to be incremental and hence, less dramatic.
Labour certainly did not do as well as it would have wanted in order to gain a majority next year at Westminster. Equally, however, the Conservatives did not do well enough for Cameron to have any justifiable confidence of gaining an overall majority. Ironically the fact that both major parties did okay but not brilliantly allowed the Liberal Democrats to remain confident of holding the balance of power in the next parliament even if they loose a third or more of their seats. For Clegg personal survival seems secured at least for a while despite being the man who has presided over the university fees u turn debacle, failed to get the cherished electoral reform and failed to reform the House of Lords.
UKIP on the other hand seem delighted but due to the nature of the system they will not have gained an enormous amount of power. Due to only parts of the councils being elected they hold none outright.
What their success does play to though is a most interesting analysis best made by the Guardian a number of months ago which I noticed at the time but now seems to be beginning to play out.
In March Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin identified the east of England from Norfolk in East Anglia to Durham in the north as the area most likely to yield seats for UKIP. They also identified that much of the potential voting demographic for UKIP is not disaffected Thatcherite Tories (though Farage and his staffers may be such) but more white working class voters.
Ford and Goodwin identified the best target seat for UKIP: Great Grimsby – though they were only fourth in 2010. Grimsby is a medium to large sized English town (almost exactly the size of Londonderry) situated at the junction of the East Midlands with Yorkshire and Humber: not really quite the north but assuredly not the south. It has practically all the criteria suggested as a suitable UKIP target. Furthermore its long serving MP Austin Mitchell (a Eurosceptic) who held the seat with a small majority in 2010 announced in April that he would not be standing at the next election. Last night UKIP deprived Labour of overall control of the council (Northeast Lincolnshire).
Furthermore there are Tory shires in that area which also might be vulnerable: the region is a popular retirement one from the more urban parts of the East Midlands such as Nottingham. The neighbouring seat of Louth and Horncastle is represented by the even more commendably ancient Sir Peter Tapsell who has also announced he will not run again. Interestingly this seat was at one stage proposed for Boris Johnson though the idea of the very metropolitan Johnson representing an archetypal shire constituency seems odd. Indeed although it has a 50% Conservative vote one might see a stop Boris campaign resulting in tactical voting and again UKIP might be there to clean up.
All the above is pure speculation though from people (Ford and Goodwin) who have studied UKIP in great detail. All that can be said is that in Great Grimsby UKIP’s ducks all seem to be lining up: something Farage’s pretend casual but actually highly organised machine will no doubt have noted.