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Labour expects “difficult” Bristol council vote

May 28, 2009

The third in my series of pieces about the council elections. This time, Labour:

Bristol’s Labour leader Helen Holland expects the June 4 council elections to be “difficult” for her party.

Labour is significantly behind in the national polls and many traditional voters are expected to stay at home, or even vote for minor parties as a protest at the MPs’ expenses scandal.

But she dismisses talk of a “meltdown” in the Labour vote in Bristol, saying: “Overall we expect to stay about the same in this election, and we would be happy with that.”

Labour currently has 24 seats on the council, compared to 32 Lib dems, 13 Conservatives and 1 Green. Labour ran the city council with support from the Tories for nearly 2 years, until a row over school closures caused the Conservatives to switch support to the Lib Dems in February.

She admits though, the expenses scandal and the general unpopularity of the government will hit the Labour vote.

She said: “We have heard that some people don’t feel like coming out and we’ve been talking to them about why they should. One of them is the threat from the BNP.

“Personally, I am digusted at the actions of some MPs of all parties. We don’t know what the effect of that will be on the voting public.”

But she blames the “cyclical nature” of British politics for some of the problems faced by Labour in Bristol: “We are in the third term of a Labour government and that has never happened before.

“You could say the same thing happened during the Tories’ 18 years in power in the 1990s. They completely lost their base in Bristol and were down to 6 seats. Whatever happens in these elections, the maths mean it can’t be that bad for us.”

Labour is basing its campaign on their achievements during their 21 months in power, citing transport policies like the £1 ‘travel anywhere’ bus fare, their pledge to make Bristol the safest city in the world, and their handling of the city’s finances.

But with the prospect of a collapse in their vote a real possibility, Helen Holland is understandably keen for this campaign to be over.

She said: “I always look forward to elections. For political people it’s our lifeblood. This one has been a hard slog, partly because it’s been such a long campaign. So I am looking forward to it, but I’m also looking forward to it being over.”

Audio: Original is talking to the leaders of all the main parties on the city council this week. Today, Martin Jones interviews Labour leader Helen Holland.

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