Clear as mud

Date: Monday 8th May 2017

WHILE a clear picture was emerging yesterday of Conservative gains and Labour losses across the county in Thursday’s local elections, the situation in Cumbria is as clear as mud.

The Tories will be delighted with the number of seats they gained on Cumbria County Council, but there will also be a sense of frustration that they failed to gain overall control of the authority.

When the results were announced in the early hours of yesterday, they had 37 seats, Labour 26, the Liberal Democrats 16 and Independents five. The verdict of the electors left the county in a state of flux, with the Tories six seats short of the 43 needed to gain overall control and the previous Labour/Lib Dem coalition one short.

There is the prospect of paralysis in the council for four weeks because of next month’s general election, with the major parties being unwilling to commit to a coalition in advance of polling day on 8th June because it would weaken the message that their national leaders are putting out.

That is likely to lead to lengthy periods of horse trading as the scramble for power over the next four years begins. There is even the prospect of a rainbow coalition of councillors of various political hues, which appals the Conservatives as the largest party.

Voters will by now be accustomed to a call during the election campaign for “strong and stable leadership”. As the council continues to feel the effects of cuts in funding, it is important for the future of Cumbria that the political leaders in the county put their heads together in a creative way rather than a confrontational one and come up with a solution that fits in with Theresa May’s mantra.