Local elections 2023: low turnouts overlooked by the media

Local elections 2023: low turnouts overlooked by the media

Local council elections took place last Thursday (4th May) and since Friday morning the news has been full of the usual ‘analysis’ as quite predictably Labour “did very well”.

Local elections 2023: We need to reflect and do more, says Lucy Frazer after Tory losses

The government needs to reflect and do more, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer has said following bruising losses for her party in local elections in England.

Some Conservatives have blamed Rishi Sunak after the party lost more than 1,000 councillors in Thursday’s vote.

But, speaking to the BBC, Ms Frazer said that, despite a difficult start to the Tories’ campaign, voters “were beginning to give Rishi Sunak credit”.

Labour’s Wes Streeting said the “best is yet to come” for his party.

Speaking to the Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme, the shadow health secretary said he was “confident Labour can win a majority in the next election, but not complacent… we’re not taking people for granted”.

The party won control of 22 councils including crucial battlegrounds such as Medway, Swindon, Plymouth, Stoke-on-Trent, and East Staffordshire.

Based on these results Labour would win 35% of the national vote share if a general election were held – making them the largest party –according to Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University Sir John Curtice.

Pressed on whether the party had made enough progress to form the next government, Mr Streeting argued people who voted for small parties in these local elections, would switch to Labour in the next general election, expected in 2024.


Local elections 2023: MPs clash over Tory and Labour performance in West Midlands

Two MPs have clashed over the performance of their parties in the local elections in the West Midlands.

The results from Thursday’s vote saw the Conservatives lose control of 10 councils in the area.

Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, Jess Phillips, said the results showed “the people of our country do not want to vote Tory”.

But Jack Brereton, the Conservative MP for Stoke South, said he saw it as Labour underperforming in the region.

“The reality is, Labour did underperform. We actually had one less seat in Stoke-on-Trent than we got in 2019,” he told BBC Politics Midlands.

Ms Phillips said the results showed “the Tories were decimated” and told Mr Brereton “you should be embarrassed about how badly you performed”.

In response he said: “You have to perform far better than this to get a majority in a general election and that is not what you are doing at the moment.”

Challenged on the lack of Labour gains in Walsall and Dudley in the local elections, the Birmingham MP admitted the party had “work to do”.

“I wouldn’t be at all complacent about those seats,” she said.


Well blah blah blah and all that.

Sadly, and quite predictably, most people seem to have overlooked the actual purpose of these elections, namely to elect councillors who will represent you and your area within the local council.

The results have no bearing on the makeup of the national Government, and indeed despite all the chest-thumping from the Labour party, they are still the party in Opposition, and Rishi Sunak is still the Prime Minister.

It is interesting though that there has been very little mention in the media of the turnout figures, and I suspected they would be quite low, in which case they are not really reflective of the electorate as a whole.

I’ve just been having a look at election results from three local councils in the West Midlands – there aren’t any of course in Birmingham since the crafty Labour party there legislated to only have to hold a ‘full’ election once every four years.


Of the three councils I looked into, to their credit only Sandwell provided an ‘overall’ turnout figure, which was 22.92%.


That’s pretty appalling, but turnouts for local elections there have been low for many years now, hence why Labour have managed to hold a firm grip on this Black Country borough for nearly fifty years since its creation.


The council doesn’t provide an overall turnout figure, but breaks it down by ward. It was pretty varied though, ranging from 19.11% up to 37.2%.


They also handily show the turnout figure compared to 2022, and it is evident to see that turnout is lower.


Annoyingly, Walsall doesn’t provide an overall turnout figure either, and the only way to see these is to look at scanned copies of the result declarations by ward, where someone has scribbled it on.


Turnouts varied between wards, ranging from 18.9% up to 48.2%.

“Tyranny of the minority”

As I’ve written in other articles here, the problem with such low voter turnout levels is that it is effectively a ‘majority of the minority’ that can be bothered to go and vote who ultimately decides who represents you as a councillor and makes up the local council that runs your local authority.

Labour and Tories can make all the noises they want about being “ready to govern” or “reflect and do more” but at the end of the day are these results anything to be proud or even ashamed of?

Is it even really ‘democratic’ when the majority of people can’t be bothered to vote?

Now of course the other danger with low voter turnouts is that it becomes an opportunity for some ‘fringe’ party to whip up local support and get their candidates elected, especially if they only need around 12% of the electorate to support them.

Which is basically all Labour and Conservatives are doing now.

Jess Phillips said earlier “the people of our country do not want to vote Tory”, but in reality most people don’t want to vote Labour either.