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2021 Elections: What happened?

Kerri Prince, BASW Public and Political Affairs Lead, provides an overview of last week's elections...

Due to COVID-19, it took a lot longer for all elections to be counted with some results only being declared last night. It was the biggest set of elections outside of a General Election, with voting taking place to the Welsh Parliament, Scottish Parliament, London Assembly, for English Mayors, and English councils. 

On the surface with early results, it looked like the Conservatives had done extremely well. They won the Hartlepool by-election with more than 50% of the vote, which is not easy to achieve with a dozen candidates. This means that the Conservatives have gained a UK Parliamentary seat, and Labour has lost a seat due to the previous MP being Labour. 

The Conservatives also went on to increase their majority in the Tees Valley and West Midlands Mayoral contests, as well as making gains such as the Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner which had previously been held by Labour. Early reporting gave the impression that it was a Conservative landslide in England, but results that came out over the next few days made those early reports seem premature. 

Unsurprisingly, Andy Burnham increased his majority in Greater Manchester, and Labour also held on in Liverpool. London remained Labour, returning Sadiq Khan as their Mayor. Bristol Mayor, Labour’s Marvin Rees, also won another term. 

The Labour Party also made some gains from the Conservatives in Mayoral contests, such as Dan Norris in the West of England, and Nik Johnson who is the new Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Both Dan and Nik replied to our questionnaire to candidates for Mayor, and it is great that these areas have a Mayor that is aware of the issues facing social workers. 

Historically, Labour has always done well in the North of England, and the Conservatives have done well in the South – but results from these elections suggest the opposite is happening. 

In Scotland, the Scottish National Party remained the biggest party but came just one seat short of an overall majority. However, with the Greens gaining two additional seats, the pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament has increased. There was a lot of media coverage for Alex Salmond’s new party ‘Alba’, but this failed to translate into seats. Whilst Nicola Sturgeon has made it clear she intends to put pandemic recovery first, given the fact that the SNP secured the highest share of the constituency vote in the history of devolution, she argues the mandate for holding a second referendum is clear and has stated there is ‘no democratic justification for the UK Government, or anyone else, to attempt to block it’.

In Wales, the electorate turned out in the highest numbers for any Senedd election. The Labour Party also got one seat fewer than enough to have an overall majority. Labour have been in charge of the Welsh Government for 22 years and have matched their best ever Senedd results. It appears rather than official coalition, they will try to govern with agreements on a case-by-case basis with other parties. There was some upset as Plaid Cymru Leader Leanne Wood lost her seat, and the Conservatives performed strongly, achieving their best ever results, but did not get the constituency results that they were predicting. 

As the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments start looking ahead with a refreshed mandate and the end of COVID-19 in sight, we will be working to make sure that social workers are recognised and have their voices listened to.