Labour cling on by one seat amid Green surge

Labour have remained the largest party in the Brighton and Hove City Council, amid a huge surge in support for the Green Party.

The Greens gained eight seats on the council, the highest number of gains the party received anywhere in the country. Among the victories was a stunning result in Withdean, where the Greens came from third in 2015 to win every seat from the Conservatives.

Despite gains from the Tories in Central Hove and Westbourne, Labour lost councillors to the Greens in Hanover and Elm Grove, Preston Park and in the university ward of Hollingdean and Stanmer.

Labour celebrate remaining the largest party on the council

But it was the Conservatives who faced the biggest defeat of the night, losing a total of six seats and being pushed back to third place, with their vote share dropping by more than 20 percent in some wards.

Anne Meadows, a former Labour councillor who defected to the Conservatives earlier this year, lost her seat and placed second last. She had held a seat in Moulsecoomb since the first election to the council in 1999.

Even in their heartland of Rottingdean Coastal, the party lost a seat to Bridget Fishleigh, an independent who had been prominent in a campaign to save Saltdean Lido. Fishleigh is the first independent to be elected in Brighton for more than a decade.

After all 21 declarations, Labour are the largest party by just one seat, on 20. The Greens are close behind with 19 seats, followed by the Conservatives on 14 and one independent.

For the first time since 2003, the party with the most votes did not win the most seats on the local council. The Greens won 37.2 percent (from 26.2 percent), compared with Labour’s 35.4 percent (from 35.6 percent) and the Conservatives’ 22.2 percent (from 30.2 percent). This amount to a overall swing of 5.6 percent from Labour to the Greens.

The Liberal Democrat vote, unlike most of the country, was down by almost one percent (2.2 percent, from 3.3 percent). UKIP’s vote share reached its lowest point since 2011 – down to 0.9 percent across Brighton and Hove from 3.3 in 2015.

The Women’s Equality, although failing to win their two target seats, won an average of 5.4 percent of the vote in the seats they fought. Across the city, they achieved 0.6 percent.

Had a proportional voting system been used, the Greens would have emerged as the largest party, with the Conservatives suffering greater losses. The Liberal Democrats and UKIP would have also picked up a seat on the council.

Reaction to the result

Daniel Yates, leader of the Labour Party in Brighton praised their performance.

“It’s the first time in 20 years that any political party has kept control of the council. It’s changed and changed and now it’s stuck.

“It’s a significant vote of confidence in Brighton of how Labour has administered the city over the last four years, so we will be trying to do exactly the same over the next four years.”

“We have also seen a significant vote for the progressive parties. We know Brighton is a progressive, pro-EU city and they have shown the Tories, even in their heartlands, that they are not okay with the actions of the Conservative government.”

The Greens leader in the city, Phelim Mac Cafferty, said he was delighted by the result.

“People went out of their way to vote for us and vote for us in very large numbers, which is fantastic news and echos what’s been happening all around the country as well,” he said.

Conservative Party leader for Brighton, Tony Janio, blamed issues such as Brexit for the party’s poor performance in the city.

“The major parties have both got national troubles and that was played out here,” he explained.

New independent councillor Bridget Fishleigh said that her election was more than a protest vote.

She said: “People didn’t vote for me as a protest vote. They voted for me, because I’m a strong local canidate with a track record.”

How my prediction stacks up

I made a prediction about how the election might turn out earlier this week, when polls had anticipated a big increase in the number of seats Labour would win. I was right to predict Labour gains in Westbourne and Central Hove, two close marginals, as well as that the Greens would claw back some seats from Labour in areas where they were strong at their peak, as well as a seat in Hollingdean and Stanmer.

However, I could not have predicted the huge Green wave that swept the region and the country. Predicted Labour gains in Brunswick and Adelaide and Goldsmid never materialised, and the Greens went further and took all the seats in Preston Park and even Withdean, where they came third.

My prediction of a Labour win in Hangleton and Knoll was off by just two votes, with three Conservatives just scraping back to power.

Given that no independent candidates had been elected in over a decade, I hadn’t counted on a well-respected independent voice being elected in Rottingdean, but the scale of the Conservatives’ drop in support and coupled with a familiar campaigner in the community gave them victory.

One response to “Labour cling on by one seat amid Green surge

  1. Pingback: Brighton Tory leader resigns over election defeat | ThoughtsFromDan·

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