Tough elections for Labour bring gains for Co-op Party but loss for CCIN member Plymouth

By-election defeat in Hartlepool was offset by three metro mayor wins - with Nik Johnson and Tracy Brabin winning on Labour/Co-op tickets

May’s election results have brought renewed infighting to the Labour Party after the loss of its heartland Hartlepool seat.

The by-election, marked by continued fallout from Brexit, saw Labour’s vote nearly halved. Elsewhere, in the local elections, the party saw mixed fortunes – with notable successes in the devolved city regions, including two new additions to the ranks of Labour/Co-op metro mayors.

As the dust settles, Labour is still looking for a way to reconnect with voters. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson’s spending pledges have encroached on the opposition’s territory – and Ben Houchen, Conservative metro mayor for Tees Valley has picked up votes by putting a Tory spin on the ambitious regional development which had previously been championed by Labour authorities.

The election has implications both for the Co-op Party – in terms of council seats, shadow cabinet changes and mayoralties – and for the Co-op Councils Innovation Network.

For the Party in Parliament, Labour/Co-op MP Anneliese Dodds has been demoted from shadow chancellor to Labour chair; she has been replaced by Rachel Reeves.

There was good news for the Party in devolved government, with two new Labour/Co-op mayors. Nik Johnson narrowly took Cambridgeshire and Peterborough from Tory incumbent James Palmer, by a margin of 113,994 votes to 108,195 in the second round; and Tracy Brabin has become the first mayor of West Yorkshire – leaving Labour facing another red wall by-election in her parliamentary seat, Batley and Spen. They join existing Labour/Co-op mayors Andy Burnham (Manchester), Dan Jarvis (Sheffield) and Jamie Driscoll (North Tyneside).

Labour won another mayoralty from the Conservatives, the West of England, which went to Dan Norris – a Co-op Party member, although he did not stand on a Labour/Co-op ticket.

Record numbers of Co-operative representatives were elected to the Scottish Parliament (11 / +4), Senedd (16 / +5) and London Assembly (11 / +4); the Party says that 50% of Labour MSPs, 53% of Labour MSs and 100% of Labour AMs are now Co-operative.

The election brings also brought the tally of Co-op councillors to 313 – a net increase of 145, the second-highest of any party. 

“That takes us to a record total of 938 councillors, with a net increase in every region of England,’ says the Party.

The number of councils with Co-operative councillors has risen to 197, with the Party hailing the fact that it is now represented on the majority of councils in Great Britain for first time: 51% compared to 182 (47%) before the election.

The Party also increased its number of PCCs, taking its total to seven.

General secretary Joe Fortune said: “We’re proud that this set of elections saw the Co-operative Party grow its representation at all levels of government, including electing a record number of representatives to the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Senedd, the London Assembly and councils across England.

“Our new elected representatives are ready to deliver for the co-operative movement on its campaigns, principles and priorities. We look forward to working with them to grow both our Party and our movement.”

Among member authorities on the Co-operative Councils’ Innovation Network there have been some changes. Plymouth City Council – a leading member of the CCIN – saw the Labour Group lose control. The Conservatives are now the biggest party on the council, with 25 seats to Labour’s 24, but has no overall majority. The Labour group has said the Conservatives should be the party to make the first attempt at building a majority with the seven independents.

Co-op initiatives the council had been working on include efforts to launch a regional mutual bank for the South West.

North Herts is still Labour-controlled but the leader, Martin Steers-Handscomb, lost his seat; Knowsley also saw Labour keep control but deputy leader Sean Donnelly lost his seat. He had served as vice chair of CCIN’s V&P board.

CCIN member Oldham Council, held by Labour, has a new leader – Cllr Arooj Shah, who becomes the first female Muslim council leader in the north.

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