The result may be the same as ever, with Conservatives romping home in the general and local elections, but scratch beneath the surface and there’s a number of interesting talking points from Thursday’s vote.
1) There’s no doubting the strength of feeling against HS2, but it wasn’t as bigger vote winner as the Greens and UKIP, who are both against the project, would have hoped. Tory David Lidington said UKIP voters were more likely to mention immigration to him on the doorstep than HS2, while UKIP agent Phil Yerby told me that fears of a Labour government reliant on the SNP were making people switch back to the Tories. While such a result will do nothing to make the government reconsider the scheme, it will hopefully silence all those who sneer at the ‘self-interested nimbys’ who oppose the line. When push came to shove, the Vale electorate voted for what they perceived to be in the national interest, not necessarily their own.
2) The combined tally of seats held by non-Tories at AVDC is now just 16, compared to the Conservatives’ 43. As Labour councillor Robin Stuchbury admits, Conservative members could ‘take it in turns’ to attend meetings and still get things passed. Indeed, with the likes of Lib Dem Niknam Hussain and UKIP’s Phil Yerby not winning re-election, the council has actually lost some experienced opposition figures . With the unitary issue, big spending on the Waterside scheme and the long-awaited housing strategy all big topics at the moment, the next four years could be the most important in the council’s history. My fear is there’s very few opposition councillors left to properly hold the council to account.
3) UKIP can now claim to be the second biggest party in Aylesbury Vale, given their share of the vote, but the Lib Dems will be relieved to remain as the official opposition on AVDC. Labour beat the Lib Dems in the general election and I wouldn’t be surprised if their candidate, Will Cass, is parachuted into a more winnable seat in the future.
4) Judging by the large number of spoilt ballot papers, electors in the Buckingham constituency are still angry they can’t vote for the main parties due to Speaker John Bercow. There is no doubt Mr Bercow remains a hugely popular MP, but it seems totally wrong that his constituents are locked out of the British democratic system on the whim of one man’s career choice.