The Impact of Progressive Cooperation in the recent Local Elections

Polling Station - Matt Brown on Flickr - CC BY 2.0
Polling Station – Matt Brown on Flickr – CC BY 2.0

Progressive Cooperation denies Conservative control of West Oxfordshire Council

The Conservatives lost control of the West Oxfordshire District Council for the first time in 20 years.

  • The Conservatives won just four of the 16 seats available.
  • The Lib Dems won eight, Labour three and the Greens one based on cooperation and targeted campaigning between our parties
  • There’s now a possibility of a rainbow coalition of progressive parties to run the council.
  • Even across the seats Conservatives did take, the majority did not vote Conservative:  progressive parties’ combined vote share was larger than the winning regressive vote in all but one Conservative ward.
  • In Ascott and Shipton, the Conservatives’ winning margin was just 4 votes.

Following the recent upsets in Dominic Raab’s, Michael Gove’s, Jeremy Hunt’s, and Kwasi Kwarteng’s constituencies, the results of the 2022 local elections continue to indicate trouble for the Conservatives with progressives working together to build and take power.

Oxfordshire is leading the way. Nationally, progressives split the vote, with candidates outnumbering their opponents two to one. In both local and general elections, this puts progressives on the back foot, while already fighting an unrepresentative First Past the Post system.

Given the success of the cooperation, cross-party campaign group Compass is supporting Compass Oxfordshire in renewing calls for broad, party-wide collaboration across the centre-left parties in the next general election. 

Corn Exchange Witney – Hazel Nicholson on Flickr – CC BY 2.0

Neal Lawson, Director of Compass said:

“In 85% of wards across England at this election, there were more progressive parties standing candidates than regressive parties. When it comes to a general election, splitting the progressive vote is the Conservatives’ best hope of staying in power.

“But inspiring examples like this show that progressive parties are realising it doesn’t have to be this way. They can share some power and get most of what they want – or stay divided and get nothing.

“Compass local groups are building alliances in communities, across parties, to defeat the Tories and enact real progressive change.”

Ed: The above is a press release from Compass Online, a forum for those who want a fairer, sustainable and more democratic society in UK. We recently published an article on the use of “Electoral Cooperation” by opposition parties.

Ed: We also received these updates from Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire Compass:

In Cheltenham, 15 out of 21 ward seats were not contested by all three progressive parties. Conservatives retained only one seat but only because the Greens and LibDems failed to accede to each other when they had 54% of the vote. The Tories lost another seat for first time in living memory because Labour did not stand. Greens won their first ever councillor by 149 votes due to Labour, who in 2021 gained 297 votes, did not stand this time. Several LibDem seats that were marginal in 2018 and 2021 were comfortably won partly because Labour/Greens did not stand. The progressive vote was 69% on a turnout of 39%. Progressive wins were 90%. Compared to 2021 the Green vote was up 1%, Labour down 2%. The swing from Conservative to LibDems was 11%. 

Cheltenham Municipal Offices – Wikimedia Commons – CC BY-SA 3.0

So all in all a vindication of the “Electoral Cooperation” approach.

Cherwell District Council in North Oxfordshire is also a positive story. Although it remains a Conservative hold, the Conservatives lost six seats and are now in control by only two seats. Also, of the 6 seats they held, it looks like only one was a clear Conservative win. For the remaining five, the combined progressive vote was greater than the Conservative winning total. For example, in the ward of Bicester North and Caversfield, all three opposition parties stood candidates. The Conservatives vote was 797 yet the total progressive vote was 1,150 (Labour 546, LD 386 and Greens 218). The other Conservative held seats in Cherwell DC show a similar pattern.

Banbury Town Hall – Flickr – CC BY 2.0

They indicate that these outcomes might have been avoided with more collaboration between the non-Tory parties involved.

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