Conservatives take a beating, gains for Lib Dems and Independents
It is the day after the local elections 2019 in England and the results are still pouring in. What became clear early on and has been apparent on the doorstep for weeks in the campaign has been the theme throughout the day: the voters have taken the opportunity to express their unhappiness with the Conservatives and, to a lesser extent, Labour about their handling of Brexit. Hampshire is largely in line with the national trend: here too, the Conservatives have had to take a punishment from the electorate.
The biggest upset is Winchester, where the Liberal Democrats took control from the Conservatives for the first time since 2003. Conservative Council Leader Cllr Caroline Horrill’s majority was shaky pre-election, with the Lib Dems trailing the Conservatives by only one seat, 23-22. Yesterday, Remain-voting Winchester favoured the Lib Dems, with the Council now comprising 27 seats for the Liberal Democrats and 18 for the Conservatives.
In Portsmouth, the challenge from UKIP – who fielded candidates in all 14 wards – did not materialise: not a single seat turned purple. The council remains under no overall control, but Liberal Democrat Council Leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson did manage to strengthen his party’s position by gaining a seat, as did Labour. The Lib Dems now have 18 seats and Labour have 6. With the Conservatives losing a seat, down to 16, the Lib Dems can continue to lead the Council, backed up by Labour as they have done since gaining the Leadership from the Conservatives in 2018.
Labour held control of Southampton, gaining 3 seats which gets them to 29. They widened the gap with the Conservatives, who lost a seat and are now on 18. One seat remains independent. Where at a national level Labour may have been on the losing side, Southampton has not followed the trend. Whilst the Conservatives are working to regain control of the council, this is definitely not their year.
Hart remains under no overall control, with the Liberal Democrat – Community Campaign Hart coalition doing well. Both gained seats and are now on 10 and 11 seats respectively, with one seat snapped up by an independent. Whilst they only needed 2 seats to regain control of the Council, the opposition Conservatives lost 4 seats and are now no longer the largest political group, their seats having been reduced from 15 to 11.
Eastleigh has lived up to its reputation of being the Liberal stronghold in the South, with the Lib Dems increasing their seats from 32 to 34. The Conservatives had a bad night, their seats halved from 4 down to 2. The Independents stayed the same, on 3.
Hampshire’s True Blues remained the same, albeit with various levels of hammerings for the Conservatives. The worst punishment took place in the New Forest, where the Conservatives lost 12 seats. The Liberal Democrats were the party to benefit, taking 11 and jumping from 2 seats to 13, with 1 seat going to an independent. The Conservatives are still in a comfortable position on the Council though, from 58 still at 46 seats. Test Valley (who had boundary changes) saw the national anti-Government sentiment converted into wins for the Independents, who won 5 and are now on 7 seats. The Lib Dems made gains of 4 seats, continuing to be the largest opposition group with 12 seats. East Hampshire’s political landscape has become a bit richer post-election, as before the whole council bar 1 Independent was Conservative. Out of 43 seats, 32 remain Conservative, with now 2 Independents, 7 Lib Dems and 2 Labour councillors joining the Council. Finally, it’s all peace and quiet in Havant and Rushmoor – in some areas, national trends pass by without taking any foothold at the local level. Havant has seen no change at all; the Conservatives have kept their 33 seats, and Labour, UKIP and the Lib Dems have held on to theirs (2, 2 and 1 seats respectively). In Rushmoor, the Lib Dems gained a seat, bringing their number of seats up to 2, whilst the Independents lost their seat. The Conservatives keep their 26 seats and remain in control of the Council; Labour remains unchanged with 11 seats.