Sunday, November 05, 2023

GUEST POST Councillor defections: emergency update

Augustus Carp keeps us up to date with the rapidly developing story about councillors changing allegiance.

My online Dictionary gives 'Defection: From the Latin defectionem (nominative defectio), desertion, revolt, failure.'  It seems that we are now well into the 'revolt' category when it comes to local government councillors leaving the party under whose flag they were first elected.

My intention had been to provide readers with a Christmas special on councillor defections sometime next month.  The thinking had been that there wasn’t going to be nearly enough movement since May 2023 to warrant anything before then.

But events 2500 miles away have changed all that. The rate of defections by Labour councillors has accelerated dramatically and they may not have stopped yet.

In bald terms, the net change in councillor defections in the six months since May 2023 is Conservatives down 38, Labour down 55, the Lib Dems down 11, Nationalists down 12 and the Greens down 1.  

For a rough-and-ready comparison, the figures from June 2022 to April 2023 were Conservatives –142, Labour -93, Lib Dems -8, Nationalists -4 and Greens +7.  (That’s roughly a year, leaving out May when the local elections disguise the movements.)

Defections from the Conservatives have been slow but steady, across 42 different councils. There have been Labour defections in 40 authorities, but 42 councillors in 20 Councils have resigned since 7 October because of the national party’s stance on Israel and Palestine.  

Some may have moved to pre-empt expulsions, and others may be considering their position pending new developments in the Middle East or the shadow cabinet. There have been 10 Labour defections in both Oxford and Blackburn with Darwen, and eight former Labour councillors in Sheffield have formed a Community Councillors group.

How many of these councillors are going to campaign (or even vote) for the Labour Party at the next General Election? The inner workings of the Labour Party are a mystery to most people, but if anyone has any knowledge about whether these defections might be short term rather than long term it would be useful to have your comments below.  

It has not yet been possible to identify any councillors resigning their seats over the issue - maybe that will come. It’s interesting to note that the main website for the Labour Party has a link titled 'Are you thinking of leaving the Labour Party?'

Incidentally, for comparison, the Lib Dem defections have been in 12 authorities - the arithmetic is confused by some defections to the party. Eight of the Nationalist defections have been in North Lanarkshire, as the result of a dispute with the Group leader. But who knows, there may be more resignations north of the Border soon.

Augustus Carp is the pen name of someone who has been a member of the Liberal Party and then the Liberal Democrats since 1976.

Postscript: A few minutes after this article was published, the resignations of the Labour Party Group Leader and ten more Labour councillors in Burnley was announced. Also, the resignation of a Labour County Councillor in the same area.

Read Augustus Carp's earlier guest posts on councillors who change allegiance:


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. Report from Oxford: two the Labour councillors who resigned over Israel-Palestine have formed an Independent Group, and others have formed an Oxford Socialist Independent Group. My sense is that the former looks like similar localist groups when there is a split from a national party. The latter feels more like it is a play within Labour politics (although I'm sure the people concerned do feel very deeply about Israel-Palestine).
By the way, I don't think any of this will affect Layla Moran's parliamentary constituency of Oxford West and Abingdon: the councillors are from Oxford East.

Ian Patterson said...

11 including the Council Leader have quit in Burnley overnight over Gaza etc.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Ian - unfortunately that story popped up just a few minutes after this article was published.

Thanks also to our Oxfordshire Correspondent. I have the defecting councillors in seven wards – Barton & Sandhills, Cowley, Headington Hill & Northway, Holywell, Northfield Brook, Rose Hill & Iffley and Temple Cowley. An unusual feature of the Oxford political environment is that the wards are all two seaters – with elections every other year to elect councillors for a four year term. Presumably that means that the wards are all comparatively small. Does that make election campaigning easier or more difficult?

Anonymous said...

An extraordinary number of councillor defections over a foreign policy issue!

I'm sure if Labour hits 50 defections Netenyahu and Biden will issue a joint statement apologising for the very existence of Israel and that they agree to a power sharing two-state solution - i.e. a Palestine ruled by Hamas and Hezbollah.

Keep going lads - resignations burnished by strongly worded letters will work where 50 years of international diplomacy didn't.

Anonymous said...

Hullo, Oxford correspondent here. In reply to AC. The wards are indeed small for urban councils, with winning votes as low as 3-400 in wards that are not hard fought, up to 1100 or so in hard-fought wards. This means that anyone with a committed group of activists can fight a given ward, making both defence and gains potentially trickier. 15-20 years ago, it was relatively straightforward to win seats from a Labour party that was not especially dynamic. But in recent years, Labour has had many many more activists than anyone else, so it will be interesting to see how current developments pan out.

Anonymous said...

Thanks again to our Oxford Correspondent! My view is that Councillors provide much of the motive power at general election time - they will canvass as much for their own benefit as for that of the Parliamentary candidate, they should have a good knowledge of local issues and casework, and their reputation and public presence can rub off onto the local version of the national campaign. So in small wards, like Oxford, where both councillors in some wards seem to have left the Labour Party, what happens next? Is there enough campaigning infrastructure to render the Councillors less relevant? Or will their public pronouncements dissuade voters from backing Labour? I suppose we will just have to wait and see, but for what it's worth I don't suppose Anneliese Dodds MP will be losing much sleep.

Anonymous said...

I think you're right about councillors and elections. I think in Oxford East, though, the Independent Socialist cllrs are more interested in pulling Labour to the left than defeating them. So I can't see Oxford East changing hands. I wonder, though, if all these defections are precursors of a fractious Labour Party during Starmer's premiership.