The May local elections in England produced some major surprises with Brexit and the Lib Dem parties both claiming success. Spotlight journalist, Lois Barker, researched the results in Harlow and the neighbouring district of Uttlesford and discovered that they bucked the national trend.
LABOUR has held on to Harlow in the local elections despite some disastrous results in other parts of East Anglia.
The town bucked the national trend in which Liberal Democrats increased their votes. Lib Dems in Harlow produced a rather dismal showing but UKIP polled some respectable figures, beating the Conservatives and coming second to Labour in Mark Hall.
Since 2012 the Labour party has always managed to keep hold of Harlow Council, whereas in the latest election, Conservatives faced a large loss as 31 councillors in Chelmsford, Somerset and Taunton lost their seats. 2019 results show that the Conservative party held four seats whereas the Labour party won with seven.
In Uttlesford, the Tories lost 20 of their seats. Prior to the election the Conservatives had a large majority with 24 seats. This is believed to have been the biggest loss by any ruling party in any District Council in the whole country. The Residents for Uttlesford (R4U), only formed in 2014 by a group of local residents, gained 26 councillors, enabling them to become the ruling group. R4U Council Leader Paul Gadd told the Walden Local, “We and the excellent staff at Saffron Walden Town council have worked very hard for our town over the last four years, and achieved a huge amount.”
The 2015 election results in Harlow proved to be far more successful for UKIP in terms of vote numbers than this year. However, in Mark Hall Ward, UKIP beat the Conservatives with 354 votes whilst the Conservative party held 335. Cllr John Strachan, a Harlow Labour Councillor, stated that this was a one off vote since they now held no seats.
Cllr Strachan said, “UKIP are lurking quite dramatically to the far-right. Let’s not beat around the bush- their votes will evaporate.”
He also mentioned that he was surprised when UKIP did not put councillors in wards such as Great Parndon and Bush Fair as they were successful in past elections.
The Conservative party, despite some major losses, gained control of five wards overall. Including: Great Parndon, Sumners, Kingsmoor, Church Langley and Old Harlow.
Old Harlow managed to hold onto the Conservative win after beating the Labour by 400 votes. Conservative Party member Sue Livings, stated, “I am very pleased that we held onto to the seats we had hoped for and this is down to the hard work that everyone put in. I don’t think we could have done any better.”
Cllr Livings believed that Brexit had affected the election results after UKIP took over Conservatives in some wards. She highlighted the dissatisfaction over the EU stating, “We had 32 disqualified papers in just my ward. People had just put a line through the whole thing and I think this was a protest about Brexit.”
Mr Strachan believes that the results of the election show that it is clear the country should revoke article 50, as it is not getting better for most people and desperately needs change.
Mark Wilkinson proved to be the biggest winner of the night as he gained the majority of 266 polling at a total of 674 votes to become the Labour councillor for Harlow Common ward.
The first chart shows that the Conservatives suffered massive losses- far more than Labour. UKIP was almost annihilated and the Greens and the Lib Dems had the most increases.
The second chart indicates that the Conservatives predictably had a disastrous showing in the North East but maintained their popularity in the true blue area of the South East where the Lib Dems also did well. Labour’s showing was best in the North East and the South East.
The fact that neither Labour nor the Conservatives did well in the local elections is a clear indication that the public is fed up with the major parties because no one appears to be making a decision on Brexit.
Following the local elections, Theresa May announced on May 24 that she would resign as Prime Minister on June 7. She tried three times to negotiate a deal for Brexit, but MPs failed to agree on a deal or no deal Brexit, leading to her resignation.
On May 23, Emma Toal was appointed the new leader of Harlow Council after being elected at the annual council meeting. Cllr Toal did not go into details about the meeting but was quoted in Your Harlow as saying, “We are sad to see Jon [former Harlow Council Leader] go but the council is not just one person. I have big shoes to fill. Our vision in Harlow is moving forward. We are not united in our vision.”
The country still seems divided by Brexit and the local elections proved that Harlow was no exception. There will some exciting times ahead of us.