By Ben Wynd
On May 6, local elections were held across the United Kingdom. These elections came at a time when Britain was truly starting to enter post-pandemic times and around half of the population had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The UK’s conservative party: the Tories, saw these elections as a way to capitalize on a good vaccine roll out and low coronavirus rates. Their goal was to flip councils and win in a by-election (special election) to acquire an extra seat in parliament. The UK’s left wing party: Labour, saw these elections as a potential referendum on the more chaotic parts of Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s coronavirus response. Their goal was to defend their seat in the by-election and illustrate their leader, Keir Starmer, as a fresh and powerful party head. It’s incredibly rare for the party in power to gain seats during local elections, however the coronavirus situation proved that it could shatter all expectations.
The Tories flipped thirteen local councils and gained 235 councilors, while Labour lost eight councils and 327 councilors. The Tories also picked up a seat in the by-election from Labour, expanding on their impressive performance in the 2019 UK General Election. British political pundits credit a multitude of factors explaining the Conservatives impressive performance. One factor is that the UK’s electoral system is similar to that of the US in that whoever gets the most votes in a constituency wins regardless if they win less than 50 percent of the vote. The UK green party has become an impressive power in UK politics as of late, with the party gaining 88 councilors in this local election. The Greens have been accused of splitting the left wing vote, costing Labour a multitude of council seats. However, there’s a reason people are voting Green instead of Labour. Labour has had disagreements within the party over its place on the Liberal spectrum, making it difficult for there to be one central figure for Labour members to rally around. Many would also argue that the coronavirus made it nearly impossible for Labour to have electoral success due to Boris receiving most of the credit for the UK’s vaccine response. Good disaster responses tend to help parties in power, as seen in congressional Republican gains in 2002 after 9/11 in the U.S. The coronavirus pandemic has shifted global politics forever, leaving the question, when or if Labour can make a comeback. For now it looks like Bojo can rest easy.