The elections for Brent Council are now complete, with Labour sweeping the board with 56 seats (up 15), the Lib Dems collapsing to just one seat and the Tories retaining the remaining six seats. While Labour nationally has not had a stellar performance, London has shown widespread success for Labour.
Brent Liberal Democrats
The main factor in the Labour success is undoubtedly the collapse of the Liberal Democrats. Even Paul Lorber, who had been a Liberal councillor in Brent since 1982, was swept aside. Similar defeats can be seen in other parts of London. Nick Clegg's decision to form a coalition with the Tories to implement an extreme right wing agenda was simply a kick in the teeth for many Liberal Democrat supporters in Labour leaning areas such as Brent. Sarah Teather's decision to stand down as a MP was probably also a factor. The collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote indicates that their chances of retaining Brent Central are slight. How it impacts on Hampstead and Kilburn is harder to predict, and really depends on which way the former Liberal Democrat supporters go _ Labour or Conservative. I can't think of a single positive feature for the Liberal Democrats in this election result.
The Brent Tories also have little to feel happy about. They failed to capture key targets such as Preston, Northwick Park and Queensbury, and lost the remaining councillors in those areas. Their gains in Brondesbury seem to me to be linked to the personal reputation of Cllr Carol Shaw, who led her co-candidates by a significant margin.
As usual the minor parties had little impact. "Independent" Alex Colas, who actually seemed to be in some sort of alliance with the Green Party, found, as I predicted, standing for election was harder than it might seem. I think he underestimated the hard work put in by the Labour (now) councillors for Willesden Green, and the amount of work there that has been done over many years by Cllr Lesley Jones in particular. Ironically, they apparently celebrated the end of their campaign in Villiers Road pocket park, which was renovated after years of campaigning by Lesley.
The Greens struggled to find candidates, and seemed to put most of their effort into Willesden Green. Despite their defeat, they can take a crumb of comfort from getting a slightly higher vote in the south eastern parts of the Borough than in recent years. I would think that some disillusioned Liberal Democrats are switching support to them.
UKIP were happily little in evidence as far as the Council elections in Brent go, although I fear they will have a much bigger impact when the European election results are declared on Sunday.
Little Local Campaigning
As far as I can see, this election was determined by broad national trends, rather than local campaigning. This is not always the case. When Labour were defeated in 2006, that was mainly linked to the national picture, but there was still a noticeable impact from campaigns such as the now largely forgotten Stop the Tower campaign in Queens Park.
This may surprise some as the libraries issue was said by some to be damaging the Labour Party. No such damage can be found from the election results. The two main libraries in the campaign were Preston and Kensal Rise. The traditionally Tory ward of Preston has now returned three Labour councillors, and Harshi Patel (who tried very hard to exploit the issue) lost his seat. Kensal Rise is in Kensal Green and right by Queens Park (where many of the campaigners actually live). Both seats were won by Labour. Indeed, Labour did well in this area even in May 2012, when the libraries campaign was at its height.
At the count, one Labour activist suggested to me that the other parties were actually hurt by their concentration on libraries. He argued that it caused them to ignore issues such as the cost of living that affect more people more directly. Whereas a small number of people feel passionately about the issue, it does not affect the way most people vote. I would add that the improving figures and satisfaction survey returns indicate that the overall library service is actually better than it was in 2011.