Although the bottom-line outcome of the Medway Council elections, held on the same day as the General Election, is almost exactly as I anticipated, I was wrong in a few (minor?) areas in how we got there! I should mention, in passing, that as always when the elections coincide, turnout goes up in the locals, and we had record numbers of votes this time round.
The main local newspaper covered this quite well, with snippets of information that many might not have realised. Note that this was added to chronologically, as results were declared, so is in a kind of reverse order with the most recent entry at the top, but in normal sequence within each 'chunk'.
The main oddity for which I couldn't have legislated was the election of what I believe were three so-called 'paper candidates': those who stood purely to fill a gap in a theoretically hopeless election for their party. I am fairly sure that Mike Franklin was not intending to get back onto the Council (after a long absence, by the way) nor Mrs Reckless who has a young family demanding her attention.
Much of this kind of phenomenon stems from split voting in multi-member wards, and the alphabetical placing on the ballot paper. This is because those who split their votes across parties generally go down the ballot paper from the top, looking for the party symbols they are after. Thus Albert Aardvark is almost certain to get more votes than Zienia Zowie, even if they are standing for the same party.
It's easy enough to check this by looking at these and other council elections' results. Sometimes an incumbent councillor will have a substantial personal vote and voters look for the person specifically before casting their other vote(s). This happened with me, despite my best efforts to 'share the credit' in newsletters and elsewhere, as my own (and my colleagues') vote shares reveal from over the years, so I am well aware of both these factors.
Anyway, overall, the restoration of a 36-strong Conservative group on the Council, Labour at fifteen members, no Lib Dems but four UKIPpers, means a change at the 'minor parties' end but essentially a return to more-or-less the starting situation after the previous all-out council elections four years ago, but with UKIP supplanting the Liberal Democrats and minor changes in numbers.
Personally, I consider this to be a less than healthy situation, but largely caused by local Lib Dems frankly not bothering to put in the effort during these past four years. They might try to (conveniently) blame their coalition participation and the effect of that which they attribute to their national standing – which is partly valid, though not entirely – but the reality is that they haven't been mounting any kind of on-the-ground activity base.
When an election comes round, then they seem to emerge from the woodwork and then, yes, they're knocking on doors and the rest of it – but for years at a time they are next to invisible. Even their local website(s) over the years were completely inactive in between elections, the original completely so and the more recent one merely copying the central party's posts and with zero local content.
They seemed to think that support would be gifted to them without their having to put in any work at all, even the minimal effort of writing something on a website. Now they have their reward – and hopefully someone will at last learn the lesson! They have only themselves to blame, and it has been going on for over a decade: it has almost nothing to do with 'the coalition'.
In the Council itself, I anticipate the four 'Kippers causing as much trouble as their characteristic arrogance can devise, but in the process merely turning the electorate against them, over time, as the truth seeps out. I don't expect them to survive the next council elections.
Interestingly, the controversial Lodge Hill development issue that seemed to be the primary driver of UKIP's success within Medway Council has been shown to be a damp squib from the party's point of view. Not only has their former group leader – who made such a big (and, frankly, ill-informed) fuss over it failed to be re-elected, the two UKIP members in the ward where Lodge Hill is located have also failed to be re-elected, and Strood Rural is fully Conservative again.
There is a big lesson in that, though I suspect that it will be lost on those three ex-councillors...
Meanwhile, in neighbouring Peninsula ward, two of the four UKIP members have been elected. I suspected something of the sort would happen, because of the ill-informed poison being spread by the member I mentioned just now, also because the two Conservatives who were not elected there were not exactly well-known around the ward. Indeed one of them stood in Rochester East ward last time, of all places. Nevertheless, they can now start to rebuild their party's standing in Peninsula, so that next time they will be able to displace the 'Kippers – which will almost certainly be a walkover if they do what I have suggested.
My old ward of Rochester South & Horsted enjoyed a better outcome than was at first on the cards, and it has taken considerable (secret!) effort on my part [EDIT: and, I have since discovered, at least one other's efforts as well] to help protect the third seat in particular. Others in the ward branch were well aware of the danger, though even they don't know how it was averted in the end, and (for very good reasons) I'm not telling...
Beyond all of this, the Council will continue to function, running reasonably well under the (seriously flawed) Cabinet-and-Scrutiny system until and unless that is scrapped, perhaps by national legislation. Thus the potential of Medway will continue to creep out into existence, there will be the inevitable (and predictable!) 'anti' campaigns, mainly by Lefties, and plans will be refined and fine-tuned or even delayed in some cases. Ultimately we're in for more of the same style of local governance, and this will be (broadly) a good thing, though less than perfect.
This is life, and it's good, following a good election outcome, both nationally and locally!