Ian Shires

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Willenhall North Ward, Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Walsall MBC Learn more

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Politics in Walsall is never boring

by Ian Shires on 15 May, 2018

So the local elections have come and gone. The dust has settled and the analysis and speculation begins. However a couple of things are glaringly obvious. The first being the % turn-out which was depressingly low even by local election standards. The second really stems from the first. Even though these were local elections, national politics probably for the first time played a big part in the result.  

If Labour were looking for proof that it was in fact “a government in waiting” then it did not find it.

If the Tories were looking for proof that their support base had become increasingly more diverse and are not tarnished for ever amongst remain voters then they didn’t find it.

And if we, the Liberal Democrats were looking for proof that we were well and truly on our way to recovery in spite of gaining three Councils we didn’t find it.

All in all it was pretty much a stay as you are election. Probably for the first time ever, all of the biggest parties increased their number of seats but made little or no progress. The reason for the seemingly impossible gain all round? The total collapse of the UKIP vote. Here in the West Midlands they have been wiped off the Local Government landscape.

Analysis seems to show that two thirds of the UKIP vote went to the Tories and one third to Labour.

Across Birmingham and the Black Country, Labour continued to dominate in Sandwell, Wolverhampton and, in spite of Theresa May’s best efforts, Birmingham remains firmly in their control following boundary changes and an all-out election. Elsewhere the Tories took control of Dudley following the defection of the one remaining UKIP councillor.

Walsall as ever remains complex. The Tories wiped out the three UKIP seats and took two from Labour but have failed to get enough seats to take overall control of the Council. The situation remains no overall control (NOC).

Initially the Tories were confident that the two Independents would support them taking control from Labour and were making announcements in the press about changes they were going to make following taking control at the Annual Council. Clearly this proves the point that you shouldn’t count your chickens before they are hatched as the two Independents chose to support the continuation of the Labour/Lib Dem Alliance.

We (Liberal Democrats) had made it quite clear ahead of the local elections that should the Tories become the largest party but the council remain NOC we would not support a minority Tory administration. It was our view that the Tories had shifted so far to the right in order to appeal to the UKIP vote that we had absolutely nothing in common.

The scene is now set for a very interesting Annual Council meeting. No one can ever say that Walsall politics is ever boring.

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