This was to have been the year when – with their council candidates riding an unprecedented wave of support brought about by their party’s nationally strong showing – Ukip and the Greens made their big local government breakthrough.
Well, the parties did get far more votes in the parliamentary elections than ever before. But in councils nationwide, as with Westminster, the first-past-the-post system favoured the biggest parties.
Although Ukip won a flagship bauble – control of Thanet DC – and picked up more than 100 seats, its success fell a long way short of a revolution. Meanwhile, the Greens lost their minority administration at Brighton & Hove City Council and, overall, the number of councillors who do not belong to the four biggest parties fell by more than 200.
As professors Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher write in their local elections analysis for LGC, this year actually saw the main two parties consolidate their hold on council chambers nationwide. Holding council and Westminster polls on the same day often leads voters to cast their vote identically in the two separate polls: the local election results are decided on national issues. Thus good local councillors lose their seats because their party is performing poorly at a national level, while poorer candidates are elected simply because of the colour of their rosette.
While it may be the case that holding the two polls on the same day has a positive effect on turnout and reduces the costs of the election, it muddies democracy and should be avoided. Local elections should be about local candidates and local issues.
LGC View: The death of two-party England never materialised