The Snow In The Summer or So-So

The Snow In The Summer or So-So

Fri 05 May 2006

Election Night, Reshuffle Day

So, the results are in, and mixed fortunes all round.

Clear winners: Conservatives. 316 more councillors than they had a month ago, and a dozen more councils. I said yesterday that 250 gains would translate to 40% of the national vote, which leads to a notional Conservative overall majority at Westminster. It's a good night, not a great one; there's still not a single Conservative councillor in Liverpool, Manchester, or Newcastle. Certainly the party's best night since 1992, quite possibly since 1987.

Clear losers: Labour. 319 councillors have lost their seats, eighteen councils have gone. It's a poorer result than 2004, and over the psychological barrier of 300 seats that has led to major changes. I'll come to the cabinet reshuffle in a moment.

Bad night: Lib Dems, just a handful of net gains. Lots of gains in London are balanced by losses in the northern cities and elsewhere. They can bury it by saying Labour did worse, but they've lost ground in straight fights to the Tories.

Good night: None of the above; the Green party defended 6 and won 19, taking them to 95 local councillors to add to MEPs and MSPs. A decent night for the racists, picking up a handful of seats here and there.

Here are the changes:

LABOUR LOSE TO NOC (14)
==================

Barrow-In-Furness Lab since 03
Brent Lab since 98
Bury Lab since 95
Camden Lab since 71
Derby Lab until 02, and following defection last year
Hounslow Lab since 71
Lewisham Lab since 71, Lab retains mayor
Merton Lab since 90
Newcastle-Under-Lyme Lab 04, 79-00
Plymouth Lab since 03, still have half council.
Redditch Lab since 04 and 83-00
Stoke-On-Trent Lab since 04 and 96-00, Lab retains mayor
Tower Hamlets Lab since 94, ALL/LD 86-90, Lab before.
Warrington Lab since creation in 97

In London, where polls take place every fourth year, these were the worst results since the 1968 meltdown, even worse than the Falklands Factor elections in 1982. Elsewhere, Labour is losing councils that aren't quite heartland, but are areas that would tend towards Labour. Warrington, Redditch, Derby are places that the Tories would need to be winning to do well at Westminster.

LD LOSE TO NOC (2)
==============

Islington LD since 02, still have half council.
Milton Keynes LD since 02, Lab 96-99

CON LOSE TO NOC (3)
===============

Gosport LD 91-98; C had nominal control through vacancy and still have half council.
Harrogate NOC 02-04, LD 94-02; C still have half council.
West Lindsey C since 04, NOC 98-04

Can't say there's much mileage in any of these.

CON GAIN FROM NOC (10)
=================

Bassetlaw Lab until 04, never previously C
Chorley Lab 95-99, last C in 82
Coventry Lab 79-00, last C in 78
Harrow Lab in 98, NOC 94, C 74-90
Hastings Lab 98-02, LD 96, NOC 80-95
Havering NOC since 86, C 78-82
Hillingdon Lab in 94, C 90
Mole Valley NOC since 82
Shrewsbury & Atcham C since 02; lost majority through vacancies
Winchester LD 95-03, last C in 86

Bassetlaw, Chorley, Coventry are also places that would need to be represented in any Conservative government. It's a surprise that they've not held Hastings or Winchester in decades, and perhaps bodes well to regaining the Commons seats.

CON GAIN FROM LAB (5)
=================

Bexley Lab 02, C 98, NOC 94, C 68-90
Crawley Lab since creation in 73
Croydon Lab since 94, previously C
Ealing Lab 94-02, C 90, Lab 86, C 78-82
Hammersmith & Fulham Lab since 86

More success in the London area, these boroughs are all straight fights with little LD presence.

LAB GAIN FROM NOC (1)
=================

Lambeth Lab in 98, 86-90

Even in 94 and 02, Labour were within sneezing distance of power.

LD GAIN FROM CON (1)
================

Richmond-Upon-Thames Con 02, LD 90-98, ALL 86

No Labour presence here.

LD GAIN FROM NOC (2)
================

South Lakeland NOC since 79
St Albans LD 94-99

Overall, then, a slight swing to the Conservatives in the Midlands and points south; very little change in northern England; and no data at all from Wales or Scotland.

Those Cabinet Changes In Full

All of which brings us to the rather large cabinet reshuffle, which includes the remnants left hanging since Herr Plunkett resigned six months ago, and the changes that have become due since.

Foreign Secretary OUT: John Straw. IN: Margaret Beckett

Fresh from messing up the Single Farm Payment scheme, and because the Safety Elephant turned the job down, Rosa Klebb now has the chance to bugger up Britain's relationship with the world outside Europe.

Leader of the Commons OUT: Geoff Hoon IN: John Straw

It's not the foreign office, but this is the man who has to steer through all the government's tricky business. And this sets him up as the Geoffrey Howe to Mister Tony Blair's prime minister.

Europe Minister OUT: Douglas Alexander. IN: Geoff Hoon

Europe gets its own cabinet portfolio, at last. Well, it did at 10am; by 11am, and following some foot-stomping from Rosa Klebb, Europe suddenly didn't get its own portfolio. Why are we thinking of the "Department of Productivity" or whatever they tried to re-name the Lord Chancellor's department the other year.

DEFRA OUT: Rosa Klebb. IN: David Milliband

But can he sort out the single farm payment fiasco, the dog that didn't bark in this election because it was almost entirely urban?

Interior Secretary OUT: Charles Clarke. IN: John Reid

Great. We lose one illiberal bruiser who was promoted above his ability, and get Clarke. Now we're rid of the greatest failure since the last one, and get yet another illiberal bruiser, this time from the Ministry of War. The campaign to get rid of the new failure in the Home Office begins here! Meanwhile, we have a resignation statement to prepare for...

Minister For War OUT: John Reid. IN: ???

Someone called Des Browne, whoever that is.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury OUT: That Des Browne person. IN: Stephen Timms

Former pensions minister. Could be one to watch.

Chancellor of the Ducky of Lancaster OUT: {vacant} IN: Hilary Armstrong

Incorporating the Social Exclusion ministry, which presumably involves giving John Prescott the cold shoulder when he's being boorish.

Chief Whip OUT: Hilary Armstrong. IN: Jacqui Smith

She's not up to much, but at least the new chief whip is out of nappies. The old one is going off to be the Social Exclusion Minister. Speaking of which...

Education Secretary OUT: R. Kelly. IN: Alan Johnson

The Catholic altarboy can now concentrate on his third-form SATs. Or not...

Office of the Deputy Prime Minister OUT: John Prescott. IN: R. Kelly

Promoted so far above his limited ability as to be a complete giggle. Actually, is it me or does R. Kelly come across as grey as did John Major. Anyway, the serial sex pest (that's Prescott) remains DPM, but loses his actual responsibilities; the ministry will now be known as the Department for Housing, Regions, and Other Stuff.

Department of Torpor and Inactivity OUT: Alan Johnson. IN: Alistair Darling

Which dodges one part of the West Lothian question, moving a Scottish MP to a UK-wide department.

Chairman of the Labour Party OUT: Ian McCartney IN: Hazel Blears

We should see less of her. Let's be thankful for small mercies.

Scottish Secretary Douglas Alexander

Replacing half of Alistair Luvvie's department.

No move for Patricia Hewitt, remaining at health, so that's the best election night ever for her.

posted 05 May 2006, 20.09 +0100

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