The local council elections seem to provide good news for both Labour and for our incumbent MP, while keeping all the possibilities (bar a LibDem victory) on the table. Looking at the six wards that (until someone corrects me) make up the constituency, we get the following total votes cast:
(note: I've halved the total votes in Craven as it elected two councillors)
*Three independents stood in Craven ward, one of whom was elected. Oddly, no-one from UKIP stood in a ward where they had (in terms of massive signs in fields) quite a campaigning presence.
So, Labour wins (as Ashcroft's polling of marginals also suggests)? Not so fast Lord Copper. I've written before about Keighley and Ilkley's bellwether electoral logic. The basic task is simple--Labour to hold their Keighley votes, to win the two-way battle in Worth Valley and get enough extras from Ilkley and Craven to construct a majority; the Tories to hold Ilkley and Craven votes, win Worth Valley and pick up enough extras in Keighley to make the difference.
Let's take a look at the numbers of votes over the past three Bradford elections to see how the current electoral logic stacks up. Briefly, Labour held Keighley with improved numbers (good news for them), lost Worth Valley and had reduced numbers in Ilkley. Tories held Ilkley and Craven (with more to come, see below), won Worth Valley but got hammered in Keighley. To do your own research, the figures are here: 2014, 2012, 2010.
I mentioned in the previous piece that the major concern for the Tories will be UKIP. The pre-poll pre-conception was that UKIP voters would come from the ranks of the Tories and deliver the seat to Labour. And UKIP did well in the constituency wards. Just not in the one they, possibly, believed they were strongest in. In Ilkley ward, the 348 votes cast for PJ Latham (almost exactly the same as in 2010 and 2012--no surge here, and no impact from his continual letter writing) had no effect on the Tories. The Tory share of the vote actually went up.
In Worth Valley, UKIP made this bellwether of bellwethers (I just like the word) a three-sheep race. But, again comparing to 2012, there was no impact on the Tory vote. Indeed, the Tory vote went up (by a whole 12 votes) despite UKIP getting over 1,000 votes themselves. Interestingly, in this one, Labour hardly suffered either. UKIP votes seem to have come from nowhere. The only place where the Tories seem to have suffered because of them is Keighley Central which had been a relatively even race, but is now hugely Labour. The Tory vote collapsed here, with UKIP being involved but far from the whole story.
Where UKIP did win was in Keighley West, and here it was Labour that suffered, losing 600 votes from last time out as UKIP came from nowhere (the Tories lost 200). It appears that UKIP will either have no impact on the local battle, or will knock Labour slightly.
Now, we know from national polling that UKIP numbers in the general election are likely to be lower than in the locals. Indeed, this is precisely the conclusion a poll by Lord Ashcroft came to after the Euro elections; UKIP will hold 51% of their vote, while the Tories will get 21% and Labour 11%. That suggests 2473 votes for UKIP from the council election total, 1018 to the Tories and 533 to Labour. The latter still lead, but the gap narrows.
And what of the Craven independents? Craven's walked its own path for a few years. Independent votes topped out in the 1850 area in the last two elections. The Tories in 2014 got 1800 for one candidate (Andrew Mallinson who has a personal following) and 1000 for the other. But, in 2010, the Tory candidate got over 3000. This was the strongest performance by any Tory councillor in the constituency. Of course, it was election year, but that's a lot of extra votes to go blue.
But, of course, all of this is on a 37-41% turnout. When we have a 65% turnout, it'll be the national headlines playing out. But the original logic remains. This is still a two-horse race. With UKIP clearly taking as much, if not more, from Labour as the Tories, it comes down to whether Labour can reverse its recent losses in Ilkley and Craven and continue to dominate in Keighley (particularly Central). With an improving economy, I'd be putting money on a Tory victory. Just not very much.
There's another little nugget or three in those numbers. Comparing the Ilkley figures with those in the last council election (2012), the electorate has increased by over 500 in two years (a 4% increase), which seems a lot, and suggests that concerns about the infrastructure of the town being stretched by an increasing population are not being over-stated. The number of actual voters has increased by about the same proportion, but that's still only 5,200 people voting, with turnout falling. Suggesting there's a limited number of engaged voters (unlike in Worth Valley where UKIP's presence meant a fairly substantial increase in turnout). Finally, the Green Party in Ilkley doubled its vote. If it grows any more (and it's already the fourth party in the whole constituency), it will start to concern Labour.