Labour

Clacton

UKIP candidate Douglas Carswell won 21,113 votes, or 59.7% of the total, in Thursday’s by-election. This was 12,404 more than Conservative candidate Giles Watline, who came in second with 8,709 votes, or 24.6%. 

Welcome to our live blog on the local elections

Through the day, we’ll be providing results from the local elections held yesterday in England, Scotland and Wales, with additional comment from the FT’s political reporting and commentary team as well as pulling in analysis and illumination from wherever we find it on the web.

The results are still coming in, but with the national pattern now becoming clear we’re going to put this blog on pause, at least until we get some sense of what is going to happen in the contest for London mayor. Here are the 11am headlines:

  • Labour has done very well across England, winning an estimated 39 per cent share of the vote, compared to 31 for the Tories  and 16 for the Lib Dems.
  • So far, Labour has won 22 new councils and 470 new councillors. The councils are spread across England, including Carlisle, Birmingham and Southampton.
  • Nick Clegg and William Hague have both re-pledged their commitment to the coalition, amid sniping from the Tory benches that the party needs to move to the right.
  • Four cities – Manchester, Nottingham, Bradford and Coventry have all voted no to a directly elected mayor. Birmingham is predicted to go the same way.
  • Boris Johnson is pulling ahead in early counting for London mayor. Brian Paddick, the Lib Dem, is being pushed for third place by Jenny Jones, the green, and Siobhan Benita, the independent.

 

Jim Pickard

Journalism is the first draft of history, not the last. For a good example it’s worth turning to the first few months of Gordon Brown’s regime, which were described almost universally as a brilliant example of political leadership – as the new PM tackled floods and whatever else. In retrospect this was a rather generous verdict.

And according to the journalistic narrative, Ed Miliband has had a catastrophic start to 2012. Just awful. The Labour leader is up to his armpits and flailing, such is his predicament. Such is the verdict from many of our most learned commentators of late. 

Jim Pickard

Ed Miliband is set to give a speech on Saturday proposing an end to Labour’s two-yearly shadow cabinet elections. The move may antagonise some of his frontbenchers but will be welcomed elsewhere; the system did seem like a bit of an anachronism.

It also cements Ed Miliband’s power base. Any challenge to his authority can now be nipped in the bud; he also has greater power of patronage over any young up-coming – and most importantly, loyal – MP who catches his eye.

Aides say that this is not the prelude to a “night of the long knives” reshuffle by Miliband, who moved swiftly to get rid of Nick Brown last autumn as chief whip. There won’t be a reshuffle this summer or around conference time, they insist.

Here is a link to our full story on ft.com. And here is Miliband’s letter to his MPs.

Incidentally, David Miliband gave a private speech yesterday for a charity (UPDATE: sorry, fund-raising) event at a hotel in Bloomsbury. He doesn’t seem to be a fan of the shadow cabinet elections (which he didn’t enter) either; he said it was a great shame that the talented Pat McFadden hadn’t made it in. Hard to disagree.

FURTHER UPDATE: (Friday morning). Yes, David Miliband has publically endorsed the move as a good idea.

Ed Miliband will announce his proposal at the national policy forum in Wrexham 

Jim Pickard

Ed Miliband’s stag do will be a very “Miliband affair” as it will take place at his home and partner Justine will be there, writes Allegra Stratton of the Guardian in her increasingly must-read column*.

How does this fit with Ed’s attempts to portray himself as a down-to-earth man of the people? 

Jim Pickard

One Labour figure suggested my Monday blog on Ed Miliband was rather “snippy”* for suggesting that Ed Miliband was not doing brilliantly in the polls. No doubt he will not take kindly to me pointing out that Ipsos Mori has more bad news this morning.

The poll for the Guardian suggests that: 

Jim Pickard

Phil Woolas has just lost an historic court case in which he was accused of making false claims before the general election. There will now be a re-election for his seat, which he won in May with a majority of just 103 votes.

The case was the first of its kind for a century.

As the FT reported last month:

Phil Woolas was re-elected by a slim majority in Oldham east and Saddleworth, beating the Liberal Democrat candidate Elwyn Watkins. Mr Watkins claims Mr Woolas made false statements about him in an attempt to influence the result.

The court heard that Mr Woolas’s campaign team aimed to “galvanise the white Sun vote” against Mr Watkins, claiming Mr Watkins had tried to “woo” and “pander” to Muslim fanatics and militants, the court was told.

Now the Labour MP has lost the case it will set a curious precedent for British elections, where mud-slinging is widespread and many candidates are thrifty with the actualité.

Without wanting to trivialise a no doubt serious case, where does Woolas’s defeat leave Britain’s political parties in future elections? Will their leaders have to muzzle all candidates for fear of twisting the truth?

Take this general election, where the Lib Dems made a fervent promise to protect tuition fees and prevent them from rising higher. It was a promise worth its weight in hot air. Should some of their MPs face fresh elections? 

Jim Pickard

The Miliband team aren’t desperately happy that Ed’s decision not to attend tomorrow’s TUC rally has been construed in some quarters (see my last blog) as a U-turn. They are claiming that the event isn’t even a rally anyway.

Ed proudly supports the rights of people to voice concerns and lobby Parliament, they tell me. “But there is no rally, people won’t be marching, it’s not placards and braziers.”

They are half right (yes it’s only an event at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster) and half wrong (it is still a self-styled ‘rally’). 

Jim Pickard

I was in the room at Manchester’s TUC conference when Ed Miliband was asked if he would attend the anti-cuts TUC rally tomorrow in London. “I’ll attend the rally, definitely,” he replied. As I wrote at the time it was a significant moment, not least because David Miliband sounded much more ambivalent. Their different replies may have made a difference in terms of crucial votes from union members.

Now Polly Curtis at the Guardian is reporting that Mili-E will not be there tomorrow; instead he will have some private chats with union officials. It’s a striking U-turn. 

Jim Pickard

Alan Johnson has seemed assured and capable since taking the job of shadow chancellor – despite joking that he would need to read an economics primer to get up to speed. (In fact none of the last four chancellors have had proper economics backgrounds).

But his maiden voyage this morning was not the most awe-inspiring of occasions, taking place at the KPMG offices just off Fleet Street. There were only 20 or 30 people in the audience, all of which seemed to be either journalists or accountants from the host company. 

Jim Pickard

Pat McFadden has become the latest senior Labour figure to question the party’s own proposals for a graduate tax, urging his colleagues instead to back the coalition’s plan for further education funding laid out by Lord Browne this week – writes Elizabeth Rigby.

In a shot across the bows of Ed Miliband, his new leader, the Blairite former business minister of state said yesterday that Labour should stop opposing the plans and concentrate on making the Browne proposals more palatable to less affluent pockets of society. Lord Browne’s report on higher education, which is likely to be backed by the coalition, has advocated charging more for courses funded through student loans rather than a pure graduate tax. 

Jim Pickard

You can watch an interview with Miliband here on Sky. Meanwhile here is his formal resignation statement:

Dear Alan,

For nine years South Shields and the South Shields Labour Party have given me great support. I look forward to that continuing for many years to come. The extraordinary efforts of party members – from Shields and across the country – during my leadership campaign made me feel very proud indeed of our shared values and shared vision.