Conservatives win shock victory in Ealing

Tram a major factor as Labour lose 'bellwether borough'

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Composition of Ealing Council - May 2006

Party No. of Seats
Liberal Democrat

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After 12 years of Labour rule, Ealing council has now been taken by the Conservatives. The result is a major surprise with most pundits tipping Labour to hang on and hardly anybody predicting a Conservative victory.

They achieved 37 seats, more than the 35 needed for overall control. Labour's leader Leonora Thompson lost her seat after a recount although her two Labour colleagues were elected.

In total 69 seats were up for election at three seats for each of the 23 wards. Voter turn out was up on the last borough elections in 2002 (31.61%) at 37.69% (overall electorate 220,965).

The loss of the 'bellwether' borough of Ealing is a huge psychological blow to the Labour party. The borough traditionally has been won by the party that goes on to triumph at the next general election.

The Council's popularity had been severely dented by its support for the controversial West London Tram project. Earlier in its term Ealing had been rated 'weak' by the Audit Commission and had experienced a huge turnover of senior staff. An ambitious communications called 'Response' had put huge pressure on the budget but has yet to deliver anything like the promised returns. At the local level issues such as the plans to build over open space in South Acton cost them critical votes in a ward which would normally have been seen as a safe Labour area.

A number of factors may have contributed to the swing away from Labour:

  • recent high profile controversies at national level in a number of government Ministries plus questions over Tony Blair's leadership style has led voters to register their discontent at the local level
  • a vocal anti-tram lobby has challenged all parties and candidates to declare their position over the costly West London Transit Scheme with a highly visible grass-roots campaign
  • increasing concerns over global warming and environmental issues has increased the popularity of the Green party and Lib Dems, drawing votes from the left


May 5, 2006