Luke Akehurst: Council votes show Labour is making gains – but can still do better

I’ve been reviewing Labour’s performance in local council by-elections on a regular basis for LabourList.

So what has happened on this front in the period between the general election and the new year?

Here, in the same format as I presented them previously, is the change in Labour vote share in all the council by-elections where there has been a Labour candidate in the last two contests (so a comparison can be drawn). The results are grouped by region so you can see the pattern around the country.

The good news for Labour is that the big increase in the vote in the general election is being followed through across the country – albeit in most regions at about half the 9.5 per cent increase seen in June – in line with the stable national opinion poll rating of about 40 per cent.

Compared to previous reviews there is far less geographical variation, with an increased Labour vote share in every single region and nation.

In seven regions the change in Labour’s vote is remarkably even, at between 4.2 and 5.1 per cent.

The outliers with even better performances are:

  • London, with an 11 per cent increase in Labour vote share, which is double that in most regions. This reflects impressive Labour performances there in the last three general elections and the last two rounds of borough elections, as the city becomes more and more left-wing due to demographic change and cultural divergence from the rest of Britain. This bodes extremely well for Labour in May when every London council seat is up for election, and a number of Tory boroughs could fall to Labour control. This is the only region other than Scotland where the council by-election performance is better than the general election performance.
  • South west, a 9.1 per cent increase. Reflecting the surprise breakthrough in vote share in the general election in what had been Labour’s weakest region, and the very large increases in party membership there.
  • North west, a 7.0 per cent increase. This reflects Labour’s strong performance in the region, and particularly Merseyside and Greater Manchester, in the general election.
  • East midlands, a 6.2 per cent increase. This is surprising as this was a region where Labour under-performed in the general election, losing two seats in former mining areas where there was strong support for Brexit.

Within the south east, there seems to be a particular Labour revival on the Kent and Sussex coasts, with five by-elections there showing extraordinary vote increases of over 20 per cent. Some of this may be driven by demographic change as people move out of London to the coast due to rising property prices.

Of a total of 124 by-elections during this period, Labour’s vote share was up in 87 of the contests, 70 per cent, whereas before the general election the pattern was the exact reverse of this.


Eastern  – average change in Labour vote +4.9 per cent

Borehamwood Kenilworth (Hertsmere) -9.1 per cent

Chorleywood South and Maple Cross (Three Rivers) +0.1 per cent

Ely South (East Cambridgeshire) +6.5 per cent

Eye, Thorney & Newborough (Peterborough) +15.2 per cent

Handside (Welwyn Hatfield) -3.5 per cent

Kirkley (Waveney) +12.2 per cent

Oulton Broad (Waveney) +5.4 per cent

Oxhey Hall & Harling (Three Rivers) +4.4 per cent

Park (Peterborough) -0.7 per cent

Scotter and Blyton (West Lindsey) -1.3 per cent

Shrub End (Colchester) +20.5 per cent

Soham North (East Cambridgeshire) -0.4 per cent

St John’s (Suffolk) +5.3 per cent

St Margaret’s (Waveney) -1.3 per cent

St Margarets with St Nicholas (King’s Lynn) -3.1 per cent

St Mary’s (Forest Heath) +8.8 per cent

Sudbury South (Babergh) +16.3 per cent

Toddbrook (Harlow) +13.6 per cent


East midlands – average change in Labour vote +6.2 per cent

Ashbourne South (Derbyshire Dales) -1.9 per cent

Basford (Nottingham) +21.4 per cent

Bestwood (Nottingham) +9.5 per cent

Bulwell Forest (Nottingham) +8.2 per cent

Burbage Sketchley & Stretton (Hinckley & Bosworth) +2 per cent

Carholme (Lincoln) +6.3 per cent

Eastfield (Northampton) +13.5 per cent

Eyres Monsell (Leicester) +10.6 per cent

Holmebrook (Chesterfield) -8.5 per cent

Hucknall North (Ashfield) -6.5 per cent

Limestone Peak (High Peak) +0.6 per cent

Loughborough Hastings (Charnwood) +17.7 per cent

Nene Valley (Northampton) +7.8 per cent

Oadby Uplands (Oadby and Wigston) +2.2 per cent

Shelthorpe (Charnwood) +5.8 per cent

Sudbrooke (West Lindsey) +10.5 per cent


London – average change in Labour vote +11 per cent

Enfield Highway (Enfield) +23.1 per cent

Gospel Oak (Camden) +10.5 per cent

South Norwood (Croydon) +7.9 per cent

St Helier (Merton) +3.1 per cent

Thamesfield (Wandsworth) +10.0 per cent

William Morris (Waltham Forest) +11.5 per cent


North – average change in Labour vote +4.2 per cent

Ayresome (Middlesbrough) +17.6 per cent

Billingham North (Stockton) +5.3 per cent

Dowdon (Durham) +6.2 per cent

Egremont South (Copeland) +15.7 per cent

Mowden (Darlington) -10.4 per cent

Park End and Beckfield (Middlesbrough) +11.9 per cent

Parkfield and Oxbridge (Stockton-on-Tees) +2.2 per cent

Penrith North (Eden) -8.5 per cent

Red Hall & Lingfield (Darlington) -1.9 per cent

Seaton (Hartlepool) -4.9 per cent

St Germain’s (Redcar) +2.8 per cent

Trimdon & Thornley (Durham) +15.2 per cent

Victoria (Hartlepool) +10.7 per cent

Yarm (Stockton-on-Tees) -3.2 per cent


North west – average change in Labour vote +7 per cent

Astley Mosley Common (Wigan) -5.3 per cent

Bucklow-St Martins (Trafford) +1.8 per cent

Chapelford and Old Hall (Warrington) +9.8 per cent

Claremont (Salford) +1.4 per cent

Crewe East (Cheshire East) +14.8 per cent

Derby (West Lancashire) +0.6 per cent

Droylsden East (Tameside) +8.9 per cent

Dukes (Sefton) -2.3 per cent

Fallowfield (Manchester) +15.3 per cent

Halton-with-Aughton (Lancaster) +18 per cent

Langworthy (Salford) +8.9 per cent

Rossall (Wyre) +16.4 per cent

Shevington with Lower Ground (Wigan) +3.4 per cent

Skerton West (Lancaster) +24.5 per cent

Staining & Weeton (Fylde) -15.1 per cent

St Michaels (Knowsley) +12.2 per cent


Scotland – average change in Labour vote +4.4 per cent

Cardonald (Glasgow) +10.1 per cent

Elgin City North (Moray) +3.8 per cent

Fortissat (North Lanarkshire) +2 per cent

Inverurie (Aberdeenshire) +3.7 per cent

Perth City South (Perth & Kinross) -0.7 per cent

Rutherglen Central & South (South Lanarkshire) +7.5 per cent


South east – average change in Labour vote +5.1 per cent

Bridgemary North (Gosport) -49 per cent

Burnham Lent Rise & Taplow (South Bucks) -0.4 per cent

Chiddingly & East Hoathly (Wealden) +9.4 per cent

Didcot South (South Oxfordshire) +12.1 per cent

Didcot West (South Oxfordshire) +12.6 per cent

East Grinstead Imberhorne (Mid Sussex) -8.7 per cent

Godalming Central & Ockford (Waverley) -4.6 per cent

Hedge End Grange Park (Eastleigh) +0.9 per cent

Margate Central (Thanet) +23.7 per cent

Marine (Worthing) +27.8 per cent

Mash Barn (Adur) +29.7 per cent

Meopham North (Gravesham) -7 per cent

Milton Regis (Swale) +25.1 per cent

New Romney (Shepway) +21.5 per cent

North (Maidstone) +8 per cent

Ouse Valley & Ringmer (Lewes) -4.4 per cent

Riverside (Aylesbury Vale) +6.5 per cent

Southcourt (Aylesbury Vale) -0.5 per cent

St Margaret’s-at-Cliffe (Dover) +7.6 per cent

Stubbington (Fareham) -0.5 per cent

Westway (Tandridge) -2.8 per cent


South west – average change in Labour vote +9.1 per cent

Blandford Central (North Dorset) +25.1 per cent

Chalford (Stroud) -6.1 per cent

Newtown and St Leonards (Exeter) +1.2 per cent

North Worle (North Somerset) +21.7 per cent

Watcombe (Torbay) -8.4 per cent

Westexe (Mid Devon) +11.5 per cent

Winterbourne (South Gloucestershire) +18.6 per cent


Wales – average change in Labour vote +4.7 per cent

Bryn-Coch South (Neath Port Talbot) +4.5 per cent

Buckley Bistre West (Flintshire) +4.8 per cent


West Midlands – average change in Labour vote +4.8 per cent

Bolehall (Tamworth) +14.6 per cent

Bradwell (Newcastle-Under-Lyme) -3.1 per cent

Hednesford & Rawnsley (Staffordshire) +4.2 per cent

Hednesford Green Heath (Cannock Chase) +11.1 per cent

Hednesford South (Cannock Chase) -13.2 per cent

Leek East (Staffordshire Moorlands) +25.6 per cent

Newchapel (Newcastle-Under-Lyme) -10.9 per cent

Stoneleigh & Cubbington (Warwick) +15.1 per cent

Stretton (East Staffordshire) -0.4 per cent


Yorkshire & Humberside – average change in Labour vote +4.8 per cent

Batley East (Kirklees) +14.1 per cent

Beighton (Sheffield) +5.2 per cent

Kingstone (Barnsley) -2.4 per cent

Mulgrave (Scarborough) +20.8 per cent

Nether Edge & Sharrow (Sheffield) +6.8 per cent

Rockingham (Barnsley) -9.8 per cent

Stanley & Outwood East (Wakefield) +2.4 per cent

Wakefield West (Wakefield) +7.1 per cent

Washburn (Harrogate) -0.9 per cent

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