Chris Game analyses who won and why in this year’s local elections
Long ago, when the secret ballot was in its infancy, I used to be the so-called expert on BBC WM’s Election Results programmes, presented generally by the famous Ed Doolan.
We liked to sign off the lengthy programmes by name checking a few of those otherwise unsung councillors and candidates whose individual results seemed worthy of at least fleeting recognition.
The first part of this article does the same. The second part focuses on one result in particular.
Before this year's election, I identified those seats that Labour would win, if national trends in the parties’ fortunes, since the same seats or wards were last contested, were translated into local results.
In Birmingham there were two groups of seats. Labour’s best hopes were where the Conservatives (in eight) or Liberal Democrats (in nine) were defending wards they had lost in 2011 and, other things being equal, could have expected to lose again – Labour’s poll ratings having improved significantly in the meantime.
Happily, though, other things are never completely equal in two successive elections – most obviously the candidates.
The Conservatives’ eight seats, however, were lost – with Labour majorities ranging from 283 in Kings Norton to 1,383 in Brandwood. The Lib Dems also lost eight – Labour majorities here ranging from 177 in Acocks Green to the young and impressive Mariam Khan’s 5,559 in Washwood Heath – a figure that testifies to the community standing of the previous incumbent, former Coun Tariq Khan, as well as to the volatility of electoral opinion.
Compared with most of these Lib Dem losses, Springfield looked statistically a doddle for Labour, with a majority last year of 2,762 (31.4 per cent).
This time, though, the defending Lib Dem was Coun Jerry Evans. Having contested the former Sparkhill ward several times before winning in 2003, then seeing it immediately reshaped into Springfield, he is, to say the least, well known in his patch – which he retained by a no doubt hard-earned 95 votes. Close, certainly, but far from closest.
Labour’s other hopefuls were wards held by Conservatives or Lib Dems last year, but only by narrow margins.
Reflecting the small rise in the Lib Dems’ overall vote in Birmingham (from 14.7 per cent in 2011 to 16 per cent), the defending and again longstanding Lib Dem councillors both fractionally improved their party’s two smallest 2011 majorities: Ray Hassall in Perry Barr from 338 to 533, and Neil Eustace in Stechford/North Yardley from 394 to 894.
By contrast, the Conservatives’ vote fell during the year, from 27 per cent to 24 per cent, suggesting that candidates in their most marginal wards in 2011 would find life tougher still. Some did.
In Northfield, held by Reg Corns last year by just 54 votes, defending Coun Les Lawrence lost by a similarly close 61. Bournville, held by Tim Huxtable with a 276-vote majority last May, was lost now by 307 by defending Coun Nigel Dawkins.
In Weoley, things were tighter still. Defending Coun Eddie Freeman couldn’t retain all of Adrian Delaney’s 2011 micro-majority of 12, but, extraordinarily, held the slippage to 10 and was re-elected with a whole vote to spare.
Only in Edgbaston, among these marginal wards, was the anti-Conservative swing actually reversed, with Coun Deirdre Alden’s record and reputation presumably helping her to raise James Hutchings’ 2011 majority of 21 to a slightly less stressful 241.
Finally, in this short roll call, are the true history-makers: Sutton Vesey voters, who finally elected the endlessly persistent Rob Pocock as their town’s first-ever Labour city councillor.
Coun Pocock has been a Sutton Labour candidate at every election since 2002. In 2010 he was still more than 2,500 votes adrift, but the tide was turning.
In 2011he cut Coun Lyn Collin’s majority to 746, and now, at his tenth attempt, he ousted defending Coun Malcolm Cornish with his own majority of 804.
>> Next page: Rob Pocock's amazing win in Sutton Vesey