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Labour support falls in Birmingham as council election survey points to Ukip threat

Labour support falls in Birmingham as council election survey points to Ukip threat

🕔05.Jun 2014

Labour lost ground at the 2014 Birmingham local elections to the Conservatives, and even to the Liberal Democrats, according to a voting trends analysis.

There was a 3.6 per cent swing from Labour to Conservative, and a three per cent swing from Labour to the Liberal Democrats, in an election where results were skewed by a strong performance from Ukip.

Labour made a net gain of one seat, losing two and winning three, and easily retains control of the council with a majority of 34.

But a number-crunching exercise by city council policy executive Tony Smith shows that Labour’s performance was mixed in the country’s second largest city for a party 12 months away from contesting a General Election.

Labour targeted five Tory-held seats, but failed to win any of them.

In marginal Weoley, Bourneville and Northfield, increased Conservatives support reflected a swing away from Labour since the 2010 elections.

These results bucked the city-wide trend, which has seen a 5.3 per cent swing from Conservative to Labour since 2010.

Labour’s overall share of the Birmingham vote since the last council elections in 2012 fell by eight points to 43 per cent. The Conservative vote held steady at 24 per cent, while the Liberal Democrat vote fell by two points to 14 per cent.

Ukip easily registered the strongest performance, taking 13 per cent of the Birmingham vote – up 11 points since 2012.

The anti-EU party’s vote was up in every ward contested, and Ukip came close to winning in the working class heartland of Shard End where Labour councillor John Cotton scraped home with a 37-vote majority.

Ukip came second in nine wards, nearly a quarter of the city, behind Labour in Shard End, Billesley, Hodge Hill and Oscott, behind the Conservatives in Bartley Green, Sutton New Hall, Sutton Trinity and Sutton Four Oaks and behind the Liberal Democrats in Sheldon.

Publicly, Labour is putting a brave face on the 2014 results. Both city council leader Sir Albert Bore and Erdington MP Jack Dromey told media briefings that the results were broadly in line with expectations.

But privately Sir Albert admitted to Labour councillors that the results were disappointing.

Deputy council leader Ian Ward confessed to the annual Labour group meeting that he would have to fight a “marginal seat” in Shard End the 2015 council elections following the surge in support for Ukip.

Smith says in his analysis that Ukip’s performance reflected the national pattern, where the party took votes from Labour in the Midlands and the North and from the Conservatives in the South of the country.

In the two seats that the Conservatives gained from Labour – Kings Norton and Kingstanding – Ukip added 2,053 votes, Labour lost 793 and the Conservatives gained just 42 votes net.

In the six Lib Dem seats that were targets for Labour, Ukip added a net total of 2,890 votes, whilst Labour lost 1,173, the Conservatives lost 417 and the Lib Dems gained 1,458.  The Conservatives were the main losers to Ukip in Hall Green, losing 1,081 votes.

The Liberal Democrats retained all four seats in the Yardley parliamentary constituency, in an indication that Lib Dem MP John Hemming may successfully defend his seat at the General Election.

Smith points out that Ukip appears to have been successful in attracting support from people who did not vote in 2012.

He says: “The large increase in votes for Ukip is certainly the biggest change in these results – far more important than other local factors.”

He predicts that Ukip’s performance will not be so strong in 2015 because the local elections are on the same day as the General Election, a factor that is expected to boost support for traditional parties.

Smith writes: “The surge in support for Ukip and the coincidence of the local and EU elections were the main factors anticipated to affect this picture at the very local level.  Ukip polled just over 13 per cent of the vote, up from 2.3 per cent in 2012 and similar to their national polling for the General Election next year, but significantly below the level of support they are achieving in opinion polls for the EU elections.

“How much of this is due to split voting, that is voting UKIP in the EU elections and another party in the local elections and how much is down to a much lower level of support for UKIP in Birmingham will become clear when the EU results are analysed.”

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