Conservative councillors are less confident than their Labour counterparts about their party’s electoral prospects, both in this month’s local elections and the 2015 general election, exclusive LGC research reveals.
A survey of 1,065 councillors found Conservative members were also unhappier with their party’s national leadership than their Labour counterparts, and more likely to give up on campaigning ahead of the 2015 general election.
The findings came with expressions of dissatisfaction from grassroots Tories, who said they were being ignored and dismissed by Westminster (See Table).
In the run-up to the local elections, confidence among both Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors about their party’s performance was dwarfed by that of their Labour peers. Asked how confident they were that their party would perform well in the polls, Conservatives had a net confidence rating of 3.3% and Liberal Democrats one of -14.8%, compared with Labour councillors’ net confidence of 81.5%.
Asked to rate their confidence that their party would win a majority in the 2015 general election, on a scale of 1 to 10, Tories gave an average figure of 5.9, compared with Labour’s 6.6.
Liberal Democrats were overwhelmingly forecasting a drop in their party’s number of MPs, with 31.7% expecting a significant decrease and 39.2% expecting a slight fall.
The survey, carried out in the past week, found Conservative councillors’ net happiness with the performance of their party’s national leadership since 2010 stood at 33.4% compared with Labour’s 39.1%. Liberal Democrats were the unhappiest with their party’s national leadership, with a net score of just 26.8%.
All three main parties can expect a net increase in campaigning support from their councillor base for the 2015 general election, with the number of respondents intending to campaign more than they have before outstripping the number planning to campaign less or to stop doing so altogether. But the parties in government will benefit less from this than their Labour rivals.
LGC’s research found 14.6% of Liberal Democrat councillors who said they normally campaign in general elections, and 10.8% of Conservatives in the same position, planned to campaign less or not at all in 2015 because of their party’s national performance since 2010. Just 3.4% of Labour councillors said the same.
The research revealed disappointment about central/local relations in all three main parties. Asked to rate relations between the central and local arms of their party out of 10, the Conservatives gave the lowest average mark at 5.3, with Labour giving 5.8 and the Liberal Democrats 6.
Conservative councillors used the survey to express discontent with their central party, with one claiming it was “not listening to [the] grassroots on unpopular policies”. Another said it was “dictating local issues from the centre while using localism to put the blame on councils for any unpopular results”.
“Describing councillors as part-timers or volunteers did not help,” another said. “[It] shows a lack of knowledge and understanding.” Several also complained about the government’s decision to abolish councillor pensions.
A Liberal Democrat councillor said they were “not convinced” the party’s national politicians understood the “real issues in local government”, with another saying they would “support our local candidate but not the centre”.
Some Labour councillors praised their national party for listening to Labour-run authorities. But others criticised it for “not fighting back against local government cuts” and one warned that many shadow cabinet members appeared “totally out of touch with the majority of the population”.
LGC’s research also revealed strong confidence in the smaller parties.
Ukip councillors gave a net confidence score of 95.3% that their party would perform well in the local elections, with Green councillors not far behind on 87%.
Ukip councillors gave their party’s national leadership a major thumbs-up with a 90.8% net happiness rating, surpassed by Green councillors’ 93.8% figure.
However, the number of responses from these parties was relatively low.
One of Ukip’s councillors said its work in local government was having a positive effect. “I believe we are being taken more seriously now that we are seen to be sensible, hard working and committed,” they said. However, others raised concerns about the party’s activists.