Local elections

That Ukip ‘surge’ in full

All the results from Thursday’s local elections are finally in*.

Here’s precisely how Ukip has done:

Ukip councillors after local electionsExpressed as a percentage, Ukip now holds 2.15% of the seats on councils where elections took place this week.

To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, I’ve known surges. I’ve experienced surges. Surges have been friends of mine. Ukip, this is no surge.

I’m not seeking to belittle what the party has done. I’m just trying to put its performance in an appropriate context. In my first impressions on the election results I mentioned that I thought the word “surge” was misleading. I’d still choose to describe Ukip’s achievements as a “foray” into local government. A surge implies something consistent and considerable in its advance. This hasn’t happened.

One particular aspect of the media’s coverage of the election results hasn’t helped.

Contests where Ukip won councillors have been largely reported without mention that only a portion of the total seats were ever up for grabs.

Hence the Rotherham “result” has often been summed up as “Labour wins 11 seats, Ukip wins 10 seats.” Hearing just those figures, you’d naturally assume that it was an incredibly close result and that Ukip almost ended up the overall winner.

Except those figures related only to 21 seats on a council of 63. The other 42 seats weren’t being contested. So rather than the result being Labour 11, Ukip 10, the true result was Labour 50, Ukip 10 (plus two Tories and one independent).

Many people will have come away from these elections thinking (not through their own fault) that Ukip is on the verge of seizing power in councils across England. Little could be further from the truth.

*All except Tower Hamlets borough council in London, that is. Almost 72 hours since the polls closed, counting is unbelievably still going on. But Ukip aren’t on course to win a single seat in the borough, so for the purposes of this graph all the results are indeed in.

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