Labour lost seven seats in Barnsley last night, with Council leader Sir Stephen Houghton proclaiming it “the worst night in 15 years” for the party.
The Liberal Democrats and the newly-formed Democrats and Veterans Party, along with some independent candidates, took the lost seats, but Labour still retained control of the council.
Councillor Houghton placed the party’s misfortunes on their failure to deliver a Brexit deal: “The Labour Party nationally has got to have a rethink. People in the country voted 52% to leave the EU and in Barnsley it was 69%.
“They expect Parliament to deliver on that, and it looks to people in this part of the world that the Labour party is blocking it.”
However, newly elected Lib Dem Councillor Peter Fielding was quick to contradict this claim. He said: “If it was about Brexit, the Lib Dems nationally are in favour of a second referendum so we would have been punished probably more heavily than the other two parties.
If they want to kid themselves it’s about Brexit they need to look harder at why people have voted this way.Lib Dem Councillor Peter Fielding
The new Dodworth councillor believes the public based their votes purely on local issues, and will use the EU elections later this month to have their say on Brexit.
There were 21 seats up for election yesterday, with 19 held by Labour and two by the Conservatives.
Labour lost their seats in Darfield, Darton East, Dearne South, Dodworth, Monk Bretton, Stairfoot and Worsbrough, while the Conservatives also lost Penistone West.
How Barnsley wards were represented before yesterday’s election
What Barnsley looks like after yesterday’s election shake up
The Lib Dems took sweeping landslide victories in some wards, winning three seats in total. In Darton East they received 1,800 votes, over three times the 570 votes Labour received, while in Dodworth they got 1,308 votes to Labour’s 647.
Other big winners on the night were the independent candidates, who took home three seats between them, and came very close in other wards too. In Old Town the independent candidate lost by just 22 votes to Labour, and in the North East ward there was 74 votes in it.
The Democrats and Veterans Party was founded in January 2018 by an ex-UKIP member and Gulf War Veteran, with a strong commitment to complete withdrawal from the EU. They gained two seats in Barnsley overall, receiving nearly twice as many votes as Labour in Monk Bretton.
The fact that five seats were taken away from the main three parties does suggest some dissatisfaction with the political status quo. In Cudworth, where voters could only choose between Labour, Lib Dem and the Conservatives, 107 spoiled ballots were recorded.
Coun Houghton said: “The reaction on the doorstep when campaigning is either we don’t want to vote, or we’ll vote for some other minority party or independents because we feel that Brexit hasn’t been delivered.
“No one has been physically threatened, but people are very determined to show their dissatisfaction.”