Monday, May 07, 2007

New Brooms

Leaving aside the current tango between the SNP and Lib Dems over whether a Holyrood coalition will be possible, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the outcome of the local government elections:

SNP – 363 councillors (29.7% of the total)
Labour – 348 councillors (28.48%)
Lib Dems – 166 councillors (13.6%)
Conservatives – 143 councillors (11.7%)
Others – 194 councillors. (15.9%)

Much of Labour's power base in Scotland came from the local authorities, and the subtle and occasionally not-so-subtle control which this allowed them to exert. Thanks to PR, Labour has now lost 161 (almost a third) of their councillors, sweeping away their one party client states in all but the most unreconstructed parts of West Central Scotland. Even there, they will now face scrutiny from a new cadre of SNP, Conservative and Lib Dem representatives, who will doubtless be keen to subject their local administrations to unprecedented levels of accountability.

Scottish politics was changed utterly and forever last Thursday - I'm just not sure how many of the politicians yet realise how different things are going to be.


Reactionary Snob said...

Great post. Really strong stuff.


Richard Thomson said...

Thanks, RS.

Caron said...

I thought the Council elections were quite good for the Lib Dems - to come out holding our own when we had so many strongholds where we had a lot of Councillors was always going to be challenging under STV.

The SNP has undoubtedly gained under the new system. I live in West Lothian which, just a couple of years ago, was predicted (I think by John Curtice, but I may be wrong) to stay in Labour control.

You might be able to help me with this - I thought you had strict rules about dealing with Tories. I was quite surprised to see that you had put a Tory in as Provost here. How did that happen? Has your policy changed?

Richard Thomson said...

I haven't really looked at how the Lib Dems did in Scottish local government. However, I think its to the Lib Dems great credit that they backed PR, even when it might not have been in their short-term interests to do so.

The balance in West Lothian is 14 Labour, 13 SNP, 4 Independents and 1 Tory, which meant that the SNP and Independents together were able to get past the magic 16 figure.

My understanding is that no formal pact was agreed, but that they did agree to back the solitary Tory to become Provost. My guess as to what lies behind the thinking is that if any of that grouping had become Provost, then if any of their councillors was absent they would have had to rely on the Provost's casting vote.

This way, there can be a more stable administration, without being involved in any kind of coalition with the Tories. Labour did a similar thing in Stirling in 1999, when they offered a spokesperson's role to the solitary SNP representative, without her ever being a part of the administration.