Saturday, December 30, 2023

GUEST POST Councillor defections: The scores on the doors at the end of 2023

Augustus Carp with an end-of-year update on the number of councillors who have left the party under whose flag they were elected.

The end of the year is probably as good a time as any to consider recent changes of political allegiances amongst our elected councillors. For divers reasons, numerous individuals have decided to re-align themselves away from the political party whose views they espoused when elected.  

What this might mean is for you to decide – maybe it’s irrelevant, perhaps it’s just the manifestation of personal vanity, or it might be evidence of impending political change, either locally or nationally.  

In any event, I would suggest that any councillor jumping ship means the loss of a formerly dedicated party worker (and perhaps some of their family and friends) on whom their erstwhile parties might have been relying for the impending General Election. Have the parties kept centralised canvassing records, or will they disappear with the resigning councillor? Who will deliver the leaflets in that ward now? Who will run the poling stations on election day?

In headline terms, the net change in councillor defections since the last council elections in May 2023 is Conservatives down 48, the Lib Dems down 15 and the Nationalists down 12, with the Greens flat. The Labour tally of 100 defections elegantly mirrors the Conservative figure when I wrote my first guest post on this subject in February.  

Without a doubt, the biggest surprise of the year has been the series of mass defections from Labour, caused by events in Palestine. 

It’s difficult to ensure absolute accuracy, because a number of factors might have been in play, but over 60 Labour councillors have said that they have resigned because of these events; there have also been a handful of suspensions for the same reason.  

Mass resignations in Burnley (12 councillors) Oxford (11) Blackburn (10) and Walsall (9) have led to changes in the running of the council. Other mass resignations in Sheffield (8) and Hastings (10) do not appear to have the same cause, but it might be a factor in the latter case.  

It will be interesting to see if the Labour Party nationally is able to devise a face-saving mechanism to entice most of the defectors back into the fold, but perhaps the damage is done.  

Meanwhile, the Conservatives have lost on average 1.4 councillors every week. Let’s see what happens in 2024 when the local elections will be largely a replay of 2021, when the Conservatives made significant gains. It could be that, rather than defect or resign, more Conservative Councillors will retire early, in order for the vacancies to fit in with the May timetable.    

Postscript: Probably in an attempt to confuse my arithmetic, the Liberal Democrats have just announced half a defection to them – the Leader of Shetland Council has joined the Party, but will continue to sit as an Independent councillor.

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


Crewe Gwyn said...

Presumably not all defect to independence? Do we have figures for "gains" by defection?

Anonymous said...

@Crewe Gwyn - sorry for not having responded earlier but I have been away from my keyboard. My methodology (which is perhaps a rather grandiose term for the process) is to record the Defection in the first instance - Cllr X has left the Y Party. In most cases, this is to some sort of unaligned status, so generally I use Independents as the balancing entry - Party Y -1, Independents +1.

In due course, if Cllr X joins the Z Party, I will record it as Inds -1, Party Z +1. I will go through my figures to see how many defections are directly from one party to another, and how many are delayed. However, the fact that my balancing entry for the Independents is so high would indicate that the number of direct defections is quite low.

Augustus Carp