Labour makes “surprise” gains as Conservatives see ‘Blue Wall’ losses

Elliot Chappell
© Peter_Fleming/

The Conservatives have made gains in the North of England in the May 6th elections but suffered defeats in the South as Labour and other opposition parties have won over voters in areas newly termed the ‘Blue Wall’.

In the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, Labour’s Dr Nik Johnson won the mayoralty with 113,994 votes (51.3%), ousting Conservative incumbent James Palmer, who secured the backing of 108,195 (48.7%) residents.

Commenting on the win this afternoon, the triumphant Labour mayor told journalists that he was “over the moon” with the result but described it as a “bit of a surprise” while giving his acceptance speech.

“I feel hugely honoured to be the lad who came from the North East and ended up adopting Cambridgeshire as my home,” Johnson added today. “And feeling the support across the county – I’m just delighted.”

Labour came third in the inaugural mayoral race in 2017 behind the Conservative candidate Palmer and the Lib Dems’ Rod Cantrill, taking just 18.6% of the vote and being eliminated after the first round of voting.

The Tories also lost control of Cambridgeshire County Council on Thursday, losing eight seats. The Lib Dems gained five and Labour two. Labour held Cambridge City Council, while Peterborough City Council remained in no overall control.

And while the Conservatives made modest gains in some of the smaller borough councils in the South East, the party lost two seats on the county council in Kent, three in East Sussex, four in West Sussex and ten in Surrey.

The final count in the West Sussex County Council contest saw Labour gain five out of nine county seats in Worthing, four from the Conservatives and one from the Lib Dems. They are the first such seats held by Labour in Worthing.

The Tories retained control of Surrey County Council in the election on Thursday, but lost 14 seats to opposition parties. Labour secured four additional councillors on the 2017 result, while the Greens gained one and the Lib Dems five.

The results this afternoon also saw the Conservatives lose their controlling majority on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, for the first time in two decades, as Labour (+1) and the Lib Dems (+3) made gains.

East Sussex County saw Labour take five seats as the Conservatives again maintained their majority but by a now slender margin of two as the party secured 27 out of the 50 councillor seats up for grabs on the authority.

No party has overall control in Crawley Borough Council, where Labour took a narrow victory in 2019. No party had overall control going in to the election on Thursday following resignations and the deaths of two councillors.

‘Blue Wall’ seats are considered to be those that have been held by the Tories since at least 2010, where Labour or the Lib Dems over performed their national swing versus the Conservatives in both 2017 and 2019, and where the Tory majority is under 10,000.

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