Labour stunned as Conservatives take Derbyshire County Council

The Conservatives have won an unprecedented majority in the Derbyshire County Council elections, overturning a significant Labour majority in what was thought to be one of few safe areas for Jeremy Corbyn’s party.

Labour won just 24 seats out of 64, with the Conservatives sweeping up 37 and the Liberal Democrats taking the remaining three.

In a stunning turnaround, the Tories made 19 gains to give them a working majority of ten, after yesterday being on just 18 to Labour’s 43.

The result bodes badly for Labour, who were expected at the very least to be the largest party in what is a traditional heartland, piling more misery on the party who have had a day to forget nationally.
The much discussed Liberal Democrat resurgence has largely failed to materialise across the country, and Derbyshire followed the trend, whilst the Tories appear to have claimed much of the dwindling UKIP vote following Brexit.

Overall, turnout in the 63 Derbyshire wards was between 28% and 47%, but mirrored the national average, at 33.8%.

Only twice since 1973 has the Conservative party controlled the council – with the last instance occurring at the end of Labour’s last government and in the midst of the financial crash.

Labour’s Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins told JUS News: “Obviously its very disappointing. It’s a slightly surreal experience, here in Chesterfield where actually Labour had very good results – it looks like we’ve held on to seven of the nine seats across the Borough. So in one way some very positive results here, but many colleagues across Derbyshire have lost their seats. So a bittersweet experience, the disappointment of a Tory County Council and all that that entails will probably be the overriding emotion.”

Barry Lewis said voters would send a strong message about Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Image credit: Derbyshire County Council

He refused to be drawn on the implications for Mr Corbyn’s leadership but added: “there will be a lot of lessons learned and I recognise a lot of hard working candidates have lost their seats through no faults of their own.”

Earlier this week, the Conservative leader on the council, Barry Lewis, told JUS News: “Our chances of a convincing victory and retaking Derbyshire County Council from Labour have perhaps never been greater in my lifetime.

He accused local Labour candidates of being “ineffective” because of Corbyn’s leadership and said they were standing on “confusing” policies which “could disunite Derbyshire.”

“We are also the only party that will give Chesterfield residents a referendum on the question of joining Sheffield City Combined Authority, and we would expect Chesterfield Borough Council to honour the result,” he added.

Additional reporting by Luke Wilson and Dan Barker.

Harrison Jones

Harrison has written for various local, national and international newspapers and is the Guardian's Student Reporter of the Year. He edited Exeter's student newspaper as an undergraduate and is now studying for a journalism master's at the University of Sheffield, where he is on the Scott Trust bursary scheme.