Theresa’s Annus Horribilis

What a difference a year makes. 

Twelve months ago, Mrs May was riding high with stratospheric polling numbers, expectations were high for the forthcoming local government elections and covert talks were discussing the pros and cons of a snap election to give her an improved majority as well as a proper mandate.

Three months later, the local government elections duly delivered with the Conservatives achieving one of their best results for an incumbent government in its second term.  The polling numbers continued their gravity defying act and the Prime Minister decided to go to the Country in June.

Then it all turned to ashes.  In what will go down as one of the most incompetently run election campaigns by the Conservatives in living history, the government’s wafer-thin majority evaporated and the Prime Minister had to grovel to the DUP to form a confidence and supply agreement to prop up the new minority government.

Fast forward almost a year on, the Prime Minister’s lack of a majority has reduced the government to treading water in legislative terms, stuttering through tedious and complex Brexit negotiations and facing press stories of splits, plots and leadership speculation on a weekly basis.

This year’s local government elections are unlikely to provide any relief either.

Local government elections are to take place in all the London Boroughs, Metropolitan Districts, Shire Districts and Single Tier Shire Districts on the 3rd of May.

Most eyes will be on the London borough elections.  The last time these seats were up in 2014, Labour achieved their best set of results for 40 years.  They currently hold 20 councils, just over 1000 councillors and four of the Mayoralties.  The Conservatives hold just nine of the thirty-two borough councils and have over 600 councillors.  Bringing up the rear are the Liberal Democrats controlling just one council and having some 116 councillors. 

Only nine months ago Labour were expecting to lose seats and possibly councils.  Not anymore.  If the party can avoid a serious fallout with the increasingly aggressive Momentum movement, it is confident of retaining its current footing with sights set on former conservative strongholds and an expectation that its councillor ranks will swell yet further.  

Elsewhere, steeply rising council taxes, increased pressure for councils to build more houses, a growing sense that key council services are deteriorating or not being funded properly will not help the Conservative cause in local elections across the country.

Whilst there is a growing expectation that the Conservatives will do badly at a local government level, there’s a sense that it will not dramatically alter the position in Westminster or No 10 in the short term.  It will, however, increase pressure on the Prime Minister to step down as quickly as possible after the BREXIT negotiations are concluded.

This article was written by Frank Browne, Consultant Director at MPC.