May 10, 2021 1.55 pm This story is over 14 months old

Why and how Labour lost two seats in the Lincoln council elections

Labour haemorrhaging support in Lincoln

Labour lost two of the seven seats it was defending in the local elections for the City of Lincoln Council on May 6, Abbey and Moorland, with one of those seeing the Liberal Democrat party getting its first foothold in the city in almost a decade.

Ric Metcalfe, the Labour leader of the council, was surprised by the Abbey ward loss, but said his party did well in the grand scheme.

Nationally, the Conservatives gained 235 councillors across England and Labour lost 326. Lincoln’s Liberal Democrat gain was one of seven gained for the party nationally.

But a closer look at the voting figures for the Abbey and Moorland Wards — two of the most deprived areas of Lincoln — over the past five years reveals a downward trend for Labour.

Claire Smalley, who takes over from Labour’s Kathleen Brothwell in the Abbey Ward, said the party had a “fantastic campaign” and had built on support from the past few years. She said they were now looking to “secure the improvements they need”.

The ward has been a Labour stronghold since the 1970s, however, the party has been on a downward trend in the seat over the past few elections, declining from a 55% share of the vote following a boundary review in 2016 to a 28% share in Friday’s elections.

The results for the Abbey ward, on Friday, were

  • Hansard, Roger (Conservative) – 305 (16%)
  • Moore, Val (Labour) – 549 (28%)
  • Penman, Donald (Reform UK) – 36 (2%)
  • Smalley, Clare (Liberal Democrat) – 974 (50%)
  • Yates, Kenneth (Green) – 99 (5%)

The results mean Labour lost 14% of the vote, while Claire and her party won 21% more than her last time round.

Thanking residents, Councillor Clare Smalley said: “The hard work starts now in securing the improvements our community need and tackling the issues we campaigned on locally.

“We’ve had a fantastic campaign leading up to this May and have been building support locally for many years now – focusing on improving frontline services, tackling local street-level issues like graffiti and flytipping, and pushing the city council to listen more to residents about the matters that affect our community.”

Liberal Democrat Clare Smalley took the Abbey Ward. | Photo: Supplied

Kathleen Brothwell, the  previous incumbent, was elected to her seat in 2016 with just 19.3% of the vote, however, her result followed a boundary review which saw all seats in Lincoln up for grabs rather than the usual third.

She was joined at the time by fellow Labour councillors Faye Smith and Peter West. The party as a whole took 55% of the vote. Prior to the review, in 2015 they took 42.9% of the vote.

In 2018, Bill Bilton won the seat with 52% of the vote, while Clare came in third after the Conservatives with 19%.

In 2019, Labour’s Jane Loffhagen held the seat for the party with 42% of the vote. Clare only managed to capture 29% of the votes but placed second.

Labour also lost a seat to the Conservatives, with Matthew Fido gaining the Moorland seat from Labour’s Geoff Ellis, by a majority of 95 votes.

Moorland ward winner Matthew Fido. | Photo: Councillor Fido’s Facebook page

The full result there was:

  • Atkinson, Ben (Liberal Democrat) – 53 (3.19%)
  • Ellis, Geoff (Labour) – 701 (42.18%)
  • Fido, Matthew (Conservative) – 796 (47.89%)
  • Padley, Christopher (Green) – 112 (6.74%)

In this ward again, the votes since 2016 show a decline in Labour’s popularity, going from 55.71% to 50.9% in 2018 and 45% in 2019.

Meanwhile the Conservatives had a rocky road to power with their 33.31% polling in 2016 rising to 41.8% in 2018 but decreasing to 36% in 2019 as the Green party managed to surge to 12% of the vote.

Following the election, Lincoln Conservatives party leader Thomas Dyer said: “Labour have been weakened on the City of Lincoln Council and we are now a stronger opposition party.

“The fight for city hall will continue – we have the momentum to take over the council.”

The final tally, means the party breakdown is:

  • Labour – 22 members
  • Conservatives – 10 members
  • Liberal Democrats – 1 member

Labour leader Ric Metcalfe saw two of the seven wards his party were defending lost to his opponents. | Photo: James Mayer for LDRS

Labour leader Ric Metcalfe said that “in the context of the national swing,” it was a “pretty good result for us”.

He called the Liberal Democrat win in Abbey a “surprise element”. “[Abbey has] generally been a fairly safe labour seat, but we had the problem of a, albeit very good candidate, nevertheless a much less well known than the outgoing person who retired.

“It’s always a bit difficult if you lose a long-standing incumbent and a new person has to come in, and obviously the Liberal Democrats have taken advantage of that and ran a very proactive campaign.

Despite the losses, however, he added: “We retain comfortable overall control and we shall carry on doing all the good things that we’ve been doing for a number of years.”