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Analysis: How important was Brexit effect?

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Sir John Curtice: Labour gains are par for the course
The overnight election results will have come as a disappointment to Labour, a source of encouragement for the Conservatives, and as a relief for the Liberal Democrats, writes Prof John Curtice and colleagues on the BBC's local elections team.It was a night in which big swings were rare on the ground.Labour failed to gain control of the Tory totems of Wandsworth or Westminster. The party lost control of both Derby and Nuneaton, but did gain control of Plymouth council from the Conservatives.The Liberal Democrats managed to capture Richmond-upon-Thames from the Conservatives, where their party leader, Sir Vince Cable, is a local MP.The Conservatives had the consolation of winning control of both Basildon and Peterborough.
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So, what does this tell us about how the parties have fared - and whyCollapse of UKIP
Behind these gains and losses is a clear pattern of rises and falls in the levels of party support.Most of the seats being contested were previously fought over in 2014, when Labour were narrowly ahead of the Conservatives in the opinion polls.
At that time, UKIP were riding the crest of a wave, while the Liberal Democrats were in the doldrums.Thanks to a collapse in UKIP support almost everywhere, both the Conservatives and Labour are enjoying more support than they did four years ago. Labour was starting from a better position than in last year's general election and its vote has increased on average by six points in our collection of detailed voting figures.Meanwhile, the Conservative vote is up by five points.For the Liberal Democrats, support has increased on average by three points, a modest improvement on the poor baseline that the party was trying to defend.
Labour failed to take control of Wandsworth from the Tories
Areas of Leave and Remain
Not everywhere swung the same way. As in last year's general election, the Conservatives fared better in places that voted for Leave than in those that voted for Remain. Britain's electoral geography has once again been reshaped by the debate about Brexit.The Conservative vote is up by 13 points where more than 60% backed Leave.These are the areas where UKIP had performed best four years ago.
The Conservatives lost overall control of the council in Trafford
However, the Conservatives have dropped by one point in areas where less than 45% voted Leave.Not least of the reasons for this divergence is that UKIP performed best in 2014 in Leave-voting areas.The collapsed UKIP vote in these areas seems to have swung disproportionately behind the Conservatives, much as it did in last year's general election. As a result, the Conservatives' performance is weaker in London, which voted by three to two in favour of Remain. The Conservative vote is only up half a point in the capital, compared with eight points elsewhere. Consequently the party has lost more than 50 seats in London, whereas it gained around 60 in other parts of the country.
Role of young voters
Also in evidence, as in last year's general election, is a tendency for the Conservatives to fall back most heavily in places with large numbers of young voters, graduates and people from an ethnic minority background.All of these are groups that were disinclined to vote for Brexit.
The Conservatives retained control of Westminster
Despite being the only significant party in England that opposes Brexit, the Liberal Democrats did not perform noticeably better in Remain voting areas. Rather, the party's best performances seem to have been reserved for where the party was already relatively strong locally. Meanwhile, the Greens found themselves trying to withstand a receding tide, with an average drop of 2 points to 7% in those wards where the party put up candidates.
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John Curtice is Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, and Research Fellow at NatCen Social Research and The UK in a Changing Europe.He worked with Stephen Fisher, Associate Professor of Political Sociology, University of Oxford; Robert Ford, Professor of Politics, University of Manchester and Patrick English, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Sheffield.
Edited by Duncan Walker
Expert Network
England local elections 2018
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