Labour celebrate Birmingham election victories as Tories and Lib Dems fall flat
If it was a challenging night for Labour in the local government elections elsewhere in the country, the party certainly had plenty to celebrate in Birmingham and the West Midlands.
Not for the first time, Birmingham bucked the trend with Conservatives and Liberal Democrats failing to make a breakthrough in their target seats leaving Labour firmly in control of the city council.
The Conservatives failed to take control of Redditch Council from Labour, and lost overall control of Walsall.
But Labour lost overall control of Dudley council following gains by the Conservatives and UKIP.
The swing from Conservative to Labour in Birmingham was two per cent, confounding the national pattern.
City council leader John Clancy could have been forgiven for anticipating a difficult night with Labour defending seats it won four years ago at a high point in the party’s fortunes.
In Birmingham in 2012 Labour gained 20 seats on the city council, ousting the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition which had held power since 2004. The Conservatives lost 11 seats and the Lib Dems lost nine.
And with the national opinion polls the worst for a Labour opposition going into local elections against a Conservative government since 1982, Cllr Clancy was prepared for the worst.
As things turned out, the night was full of good news for Labour, and for Cllr Clancy who was fighting his first set of city elections since becoming leader last December. It is likely the positive results will put paid to the prospect of any challenge to Cllr Clancy’s leadership at the Labour group AGM later this month.
Labour ended the night with a net gain of two seats, taking Weoley from the Conservatives and Springfield from the Liberal Democrats.
The make-up of the new council is Labour 80, Conservative 29, Liberal Democrat 10, Independent 1.
The first two results of the night set the pattern going Labour’s way with the party retaining Longbridge and candidate Julie Johnson gaining Weoley from Conservative Eddie Freeman.
Tory hopes of success in Bournville disappeared when Labour’s Mary Locke easily held the seat for Labour seeing off a challenge from former Conservative councillor Nigel Dawkins. The Conservatives failed to pick up a seat in Harborne where Labour’s Jayne Francis won.
The Conservatives failed even to pick up their number one target seat Northfield where Labour’s Brett O’Reilly was returned, beating former Tory cabinet member Les Lawrence.
Labour’s Rob Pocock was returned in Sutton Vesey, a seat the Conservatives had hoped to win, with a huge 1,799 majority.
There was little joy for the Liberal Democrats either. They failed to pick up their number two target seat Acocks Green where Labour’s John O’Shea cruised to victory, and could not defeat Labour in South Yardley either.
Liberal Democrat councillor Jerry Evans lost to Labour’s Shabrana Hussain in Springfield by 53 votes, after three recounts.
Cllr Clancy said the night’s results were “right at the top end of my expectations”. He added:
Birmingham does seem to have bucked the trend and given that Labour were defending seats won four years ago when we were at 39 per cent in the opinion polls, it is a fantastic result.
I am absolutely delighted and very pleased that we have some great new Labour councillors coming on board.
Holding Longbridge and winning Weoley was a great start because this was a tough battleground in south Birmingham and it was always going to be a target for the Conservatives.
Tonight’s results show that Birmingham is a Labour city.
Labour came close to picking up Edgbaston where veteran Tory Deirdre Alden scraped home by 76 votes. In Moseley and Kings Heath Labour cabinet member Lisa Trickett increased her majority putting paid to Liberal Democrat hopes of winning the seat.
But Labour’s decision to target Perry Barr did not pay off. Lord Mayor Ray Hassall was returned for the Liberal Democrats with a majority of more than 1,000.
Opposition Tory group leader Robert Alden said he was disappointed the party had “stood still” and was “treading water”.
He added: “I’m sorry to lose Eddie Freeman in Weoley. He’s been a great councillor. But I’m pleased that Gary Sambrook was returned in Kingstanding.”
Cllr Alden stressed that the Tories had only narrowly lost to Labour in several seats.
Tory hopes of winning Kings Norton, where they needed a three per cent swing, were dashed by Labour’s Valerie Seabright.
The Conservatives held Kingstanding with sitting councillor Gary Sambrook beating off an intensive Labour campaign to win by 207 votes.
Turnout in Birmingham was 32 per cent.
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