By Oliver Gibson
Next year’s local elections will anything but normal. West Yorkshire will elect one year’s worth of councilors, a police and crime commissioner, and its very own mayor.
The seats up for election in 2021 will be those which were last contested in the 2016 local election. In total, 23 of Kirklees’ 69 seats will be up for grabs, meaning that the balance of power in the Council could change.
Labour is undoubtedly in a strong position in Kirklees but it should not rest on its laurels, given the results of the 2019 general election, where Labour lost half of its Parliamentary seats here.
Could Anything Change?
Labour currently has just enough seats to have majority control of Kirklees Council, having 35 out of 69 seats in total. This hasn’t been the case for long, however, as from 1999 to 2018, the Council was in a state of ‘no overall control’ – meaning that no party had a majority of seats.
The Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have enjoyed greater successes than Labour in a number of local elections in Kirklees, most notably in 2004 and 2006, though this was of course in the later stages of Tony Blair’s premiership, where support for New Labour waned. Nevertheless, this demonstrates just how much can change in a few elections.
The 2021 elections here are quite comparable to the one held in 2004, where the ward boundaries were redrawn and the entire council was up for re-election. Labour has had another shake-up, what with having recently elected another leader, and it must cement its new case in time for May next year.
Current Council Composition
The makeup of the council is as follows:
- The Labour Party has 35 seats
- The Conservatives have 17
- The Lib Dems have 10
- The Greens have 3
- And there are 4 ‘others’
The Campaign Begins
The Conservatives recently launched their ‘Unleash Britain Fund’ in July.
This will, as the Conservatives put it, ‘empower’ the Party to ‘double’ their resources for the ‘unprecedented’ elections next year. This fund will also provide support for new Conservative MPs in areas such as Kirklees, where the Labour Party traditionally enjoyed more support.
The Labour Party has a unique funding advantage of its own, however, and this is to be found in the donations it receives from its various affiliated trade unions.
Labour’s new leader, Sir Kier Starmer, recently put to rest the dispute the Party had with its former staffers who sued the Party under his predecessor’s leadership and claimed that the Party was anti-Semitic.
Starmer has also proven himself to be adept at tackling anti-Semitism in his firing of Rebecca Long-Bailey. However, his agreement with the ex-staffers provoked Len McCluskey, of Unite, to threaten to review that union’s donations to Labour.
While the withdrawal of Party funds would be a serious blow to Labour, the likelihood of McCluskey acting on this threat is negligible. Moreover, Starmer’s tough stance on anti-Semitism will likely aid the Party greatly in its future campaigns, such as in the local elections next year.
The Liberal Democrats will have a new leader by the end of August. This will either be Sir Ed Davey or Layla Moran. Davey was a candidate in the leadership election last year and currently serves as one of the Party’s interim leaders.
While the Party enjoyed great successes in the local and European elections of 2019, it was disappointed by the general election of the same year.
However, it shall have a new leader and, like the Labour Party, a chance to form a revitalised campaign and message.
Brexit will likely not feature all too heavily in the campaigns of the Conservatives, Labour or the Lib Dems.
The Covid-19 pandemic has already drawn the gaze of the public away from matters in relation to Brexit, and by next year there will be a great many other things to attend to politically.
The consequences of such an important debate disappearing from the conversation are yet to be seen, however. While Kirklees voted to leave the EU, this was with a majority of around 20,000. As such, there were and still are a large group of people in Kirklees who wished to stay in the EU.
The election of our new West Yorkshire mayor will be a unique feature to the campaign here and the Labour Party will likely wish to build on its successes in 2018 and take the position for itself.
How representative is Kirklees Council?
The next article in the series about Kirklees’ local democracy shall look into how demographically and politically representative Kirklees Council is and the campaign to make our Council more reflective of Kirklees’ many communities.