Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Council Elections: Reflections And Predictions

Reading Borough Council elections usually produce a good churn of people and seats, either because seats are won and lost, or because people stand down - and come back - and last week's set of elections was no exception.

Only Abbey, Battle, Norcot, Southcote and Whitley have the same three councillors today as they did before 3 May.

Thames has a different set only because Isobel Ballsdon did the chicken run to Mapledurham. I suspect with her strong elbows, she will be the Conservative Group leader before too much longer. I do not know if she beat off current leader Tim Harris for that particular Tory fiefdom, as Thames is hardly a target marginal, but it does now leave him alone in Church with two Labour councillors. And looking forward to 2014, there doesn't seem tobe too many alternatives open to him, so his council career may be short-lived.

Similarly, Lib Dem leader Daisy Benson stands isolated in Redlands. I suspect she may disappear into London to chase other political opportunities (Lynne Featherstone's seat perhaps?) long before 2014 comes around.

I had previously predicted that Richard Davies would be one to watch in Caversham and that Dave Luckett would lose if he didn't stand down. To his credit, Dave didn't run away from the inevitable, so well done him. It is no coincidence that Labour picked up Katesgrove last year and Caversham this on the back of some brilliant organising work by Duncan Bruce. I suspect that Andrew Cumpsty will now stoically walk into the firing lines in Caversham in 2014 and also lose.

I did think the Lib Dems would lose all three seats they were defending this year as they did last. However, it became apparent during election day that they had already abandoned Katesgrove and Redlands to a reinvigorated Labour machine, to concentrate their resources in Tilehurst against a divided Tory party. Credit to them that their brave decision worked - although being so stretched, suggests that they are probably finished as a significant political force in Reading for years to come.

Daya pal Singh's victory in Kentwood was testament to his hard work and perseverance. In many ways, this is an echo of the way that the Greens have built their base in Park ward, with Rob White chipping away year after year. Sadly, for Labour in Park this year, there was simply too much ground to make up in too short a time for any realistic prospect of success.

All in all, a good night for Labour - including a brilliant result in Minster - and something which our two Tory MPs must feel uneasy about: splits in their party and Labour once again beginning to break out of its core areas and into parts of the town we must build support to stand any chance of taking back the Westminster seats.

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