Labour leader Ric Metcalfe has said the “currency of political life” has been “devalued” in the eyes of the electorate as his party retained control of the City of Lincoln Council on Thursday night.
He said he was pleased his party managed to gain a seat from the Conservatives, but disappointed to lose another to the Liberal Democrats in Thursday night’s election.
Labour retained control of the City of Lincoln Council despite the elections seeing the lowest turnout in seven years.
A total of 18,285 people voted, a turnout of 29.07% – the lowest in at least seven years.
In some key moves from the night, Labour’s Joshua Wells managed to gain Minster uphill seat from the Conservatives, however, they lost a seat to the Liberal Democrats who saw their second councillor, Martin Christopher, voted into Abbey Ward.
Councillor Metcalfe said: “We weren’t expecting to make any gains, but indeed we did… and it was a very good result for us. That was excellent from my point of view.”
“It was obviously disappointing to lose one to the Liberal Democrats,” he added.
“However, when you look across the piste the Liberal Democrats are performing very poorly across the wards. They seem to be pouring all their resources into Abbey Ward and getting some success as a result of that.”
He said there was a “significant amount of disillusionment” among voters at the polls this year.
“It’s almost a plague on all of your houses kind of attitude, a sense of ‘you’re all the same’.”
“As a longstanding, hard working politician of 20 years standing, to have the currency of political life so devalued in recent times… is very disappointing indeed.
“What you see is you then get voter turnout depressed significantly – we should be getting well in excess of 30% of the electorate turning out for important local elections like this.”
The final result saw Labour win seven of the 11 seats available with the Conservatives taking three and the Liberal Democrats one.
The results leave the political make-up of the council at 22 Labour and nine Conservative, and two Lib Dems.
It was previously 22 Labour, 10 Conservative and one Liberal Democrat.
“There was an element of protest vote” – Conservative leader
Councillor Thomas Dyer – who leads the Conservatives at the City of Lincoln Council and will next year be defending his own seat – said there did seem to be an element of protest vote.
He said his party were “disappointed” to lose the group’s deputy leader Councillor Christopher Reid from the Minster Ward, where Labour’s Joshua Wells took the majority vote.
However, he added: “Overall, 12 years into a Conservative government and after the last two difficult years we’ve had with COVID-19, we’ve had a good night as a Conservative party.
He noted their candidate Pete Edwards had “come very close” to winning in Moreland, missing out by just 50 votes.
However, asked whether the reason for his party’s performance was local or national, he said: “Certainly after the last two years and the revelations this year there has been an element of protest vote and you can see that in some of the votes for third parties.
“But actually we’ve held our own, Witham Ward hasn’t decreased that much on four years ago and in Moorland ward, we’ve slashed Labour’s majority.
“So we have actually made gains in vote share, in some wards.”
Liberal Democrats want to “spread their wings”
The Liberal Democrats believe that with a strong grounding in Abbey Ward they may now be able to springboard across the city in future elections.
Councillor Martin Christopher is the second Liberal Democrat to be elected to Abbey Ward, with Councillor Clare Smalley gaining a seat there last year.
He said the Liberal Democrats had always struggled to get enough numbers to cover all the wards and had “maybe spread themselves a little bit too thinly”.
“What’s happened with Clare is we have targeted an area to demonstrate to the people what the Liberal Democrats can achieve with the hope it will bring in more members who like what we’ve done.
“Ultimately, we hope that will allow us to spread our wings a little bit and maybe move into other areas as well,” he said.
“This isn’t the last victory you will see from us, we will be pushing on in the future.”
Councillor Christopher said he had been inspired into politics himself by Councillor Smalley’s success.
“I’d never had any political ambitions or anything like that, I’m not some kind of university graduate or anything. I’m from a working class family background, I’ve lived in Lincoln all my life, I love it here.
“I love the ward which I live on and I want it to be as good as it can be and sadly it’s been neglected.”
Lincoln MP says Conservative party will come back fighting
Lincoln’s MP Karl McCartney said his party will come back fighting next year to reclaim their lost seat.
He told Local Democracy Reporters the seat was marginal and that it was “unfortunate” and “disappointing” to lose Councillor Chris Reid.
However, he added: “Predecessors in that seat of the Conservative Party [have] won and lost that seat and come back [to] win it in future elections. So we will be fighting that again.”
He said the party would build on the fact it retained three seats.
Mr McCartney said from a national perspective he was expecting to see the Liberal Democrats make some inroads in a similar way to Abbey Ward and taking other seats from Labour.
“You might say that’s a protest vote, I think the Liberal Democrats might have worked that ward quite hard but I think across the country the Lib Dems might have benefited from the fact it’s a mid-term government and some might have decided to start voting for them rather than voting for the Labour Party.”
Despite suggestions national politics was playing a part, however, he said voters were bothered by local issues.
And Mr McCartney admitted last night’s results could “potentially” impact his performance in a future election, but added: “It’s such a low turnout compared to a general election [which] means that the facts and the stats are skewed quite a lot.”
He said a General Election could be called at any point and that his party were “always constantly planning” and taking notice of local elections.
North East Lincolnshire
In North East Lincolnshire the results have also been tallied with Conservatives taking nine of the 16 seats available.
Labour won in four seats – taking back its Heneage ward place with candidate Kevin Shutt, while the Liberal Democrats were voted into two.
In Freshney Ward, Independent councillor Steve Holland was voted in – knocking out Conservative Callum Proctor by 750 votes to 701.
However, with 30 councillors overall, the Tory party retain a majority. The results of the latest vote mean Labour has eight councillors, the Lib Dems have three and the Independents have one.