Whilst General Elections are the biggest and most important set piece events in politics, local elections are still immensely important. The locals play an important role in building up to the national polls and, for the participants, can prove just as tense.
The Hartlepool by-election was hailed as a dramatic result but, in my judgement, it was just a hang over from the 2019 General Election as the Brexit Party skewed a few of the anticipated results.
There was a little excitement over the mayoral elections as the incumbents were all returned with a good majority except for the mayor of the South West of England. It seems that a major theme across England, Wales and Scotland is that the leading figures during the Covid-19 crisis, having had a strong platform and so won more votes.
For me, the most interesting elections were in the Wigan, Bolton and Oldham boroughs. Over the last few years, independent or hyperlocal political parties have been springing up. They are key players across my constituency from the Independent Network having all three council seats in Atherton, to Horwich and Blackrod First holding half the Borough Council seats and dominating the parish councils.
The newly formed Failsworth First evicted the Labour Leader of Oldham Council from his seat on their first attempt. The rise of hyperlocal or community focused political parties look set to continue and they are going to increasingly have an impact on our elections and how our councils are run.
Bolton did not have any of the drama found in Oldham but just a continuation of the pre-existing political direction of travel.
Wigan Borough had no change at all which must have been upsetting for the local journalists. The ups and down of political life are a key facet of news reporting so what is good for incumbent politicians is bad for the press.
Probably, the most exciting event was the re-election of Cllr Bob Brierly in Hindley Green. The result was so close that it took three counts to confirm his victory. For political nerds, this is almost as exciting as the penalty shoot outs at the FA Cup final.
Sir Keir Starmer had set himself on course to shake up the Labour front bench but, for some mysterious reason, changed his mind. I am quite happy about this as I was worried for some of my favourite MPs in the shadow cabinet.
Ultimately, the election of politicians is about giving a group of people the power to improve our services and standard of living. The Covid-19 crisis recovery is a key part of this and unwinding the lockdown and returning society to normal has increasing urgency.
The vaccination programme has exceeded every expectation and this should enable us to follow the Prime Minister’s route out of lockdown. All the figures from deaths to hospitalisations and even transmission is reassuring so we can be confident of our return to normality.
Many people anticipated a dramatic rise in transmission when the schools fully reopened but I am not sure that there has been any significant blip in the figures. It is almost certain that schools could have opened much earlier and children begin the catch up with so much lost time and learning.
Following the Greater Manchester mayoral election, I hope to see some movement in the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework which can be used to protect our green spaces; the installation of a better police Chief Constable to deal with our most pressing concerns over law and order; and the long awaited reform of the local bus services that so many of us depend upon.
Elections are almost like the end of a sporting season. The performances, good or bad, of the players and management lead to the results and set us up for the next season. Some politicians have narrowly avoided relegation, or a sacking and others have secured their position by good performance and may even get a promotion.
Thinking of this, I will look forward to the Wigan vs Bolton local derby next season.