Why I think Labour had a poor showing in the local elections

David Ellesmere, Leader of Ipswich Borough Council. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown

David Ellesmere, Labour group leader of Ipswich Borough Council - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

This year’s local elections were the most unusual I’ve been involved in.

Polls postponed from 2020 meant that there were three elections in Ipswich. For a large part of the time we would normally have spent campaigning, lockdown rules meant political parties couldn’t even deliver leaflets, let alone knock on doors and speak to people.

These were a bad set of results for Labour, losing six seats on Ipswich Borough Council. Some excellent councillors lost their seats, and they will be missed by many in their community.

There were several reasons which led to Labour’s poor showing.

Many people who used to vote Labour but stopped over Brexit or Jeremy Corbyn still aren’t prepared to come back to the party.

Keir Starmer has announced that there will be a complete review of the party’s policies. This can’t come a moment too soon. Many know what Labour is against but not necessarily what we are for. There need to be positive reasons to vote Labour rather than just because we aren’t the Conservatives.

A second factor was the boost the Government has received from the successful rollout of the vaccine programme. For many people this has trumped the undoubtedly serious failings in the Government’s early handling of the pandemic.

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The third major factor was the way Covid rules restricted our ability to campaign. Over course of a normal year Labour members would be out most weekends speaking to thousands of residents – finding out and responding to their concerns. This year we were only able to speak to a small fraction of this number.

Inevitably this meant that there was less focus on local issues and more on national issues than is usual for a council election in Ipswich.

We could probably have coped with any single one of these factors but, combined, they created a perfect storm which looks like it has been replicated across much of England.

Despite this year’s losses, Labour still has a majority on Ipswich Borough Council, and we are able to continue delivering on our programme of attracting new jobs, bringing empty buildings back into use, building affordable homes for Ipswich families and protecting services from cuts.

- David Ellesmere is the Labour leader of Ipswich Borough Council.