All politics is local

The saying goes that “all politics is local” in the US. The same might be said for Oxford after the local elections.

The Oxford City Council consists of 48 councillors, with each election ward being represented by two councillors elected every two years for a four-year term.

The clear winner of last week’s elections was the newly formed Independent Oxford Alliance (IOA) party, which secured four of the twenty-five seats up for grabs in the City Council. As hinted by the name, the party presents itself as a loose alliance of independents united by a limited set of core values, primarily an anti-Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) platform.

LTNs are various measures introduced by the government aimed at reducing traffic, cutting emissions and enhancing liveability in certain areas by encouraging people to walk or cycle more. Anti-LTN parties like IOA would instead claim that those policies hurt local businesses and infringe upon individual freedom.

Yet, far from all Oxford residents are sympathetic to the IOA’s anti-LTN antics. Many desire to see more robust measures to tackle climate change, which may explain why the second-biggest winner was the Green Party. Green gained two councillors for a total of eight after winning four elections. Oxford has long been one of the country’s leading green cities. For instance, the City Council was the first Council to divest from fossil fuel companies in 2014, and last year it voted to only serve plant-based vegan food at council events.

If we proclaim the Green Party and IOA as the biggest winners, then the Labour Party was an apparent loss. The party lost two councillorships, failing to regain their majority and now holds only twenty seats. This continues an unfortunate streak as Labour lost its majority last year after nine councillors resigned over Labour’s refusal to condemn Israel’s action in Gaza. Six of those councillors moved to the Oxford Socialist Independents Group, which lost five councillors now.

Perhaps the adage should be modified to that “all politics is local when it comes to local elections”.

Nothing seems to prove this more than the standstill fortunes of the Liberal Democrats and the misfortunes of the Conservatives. While the Liberal Democrats remain irrelevant nationally, but at least in Oxford, they held steady of their five councillorships that were up for re-election.  They are the second-largest party with nine councillors.

The Conservatives, on the other hand, kept up their record of not having had a councillor in the Oxford City Council this millennium. Their losses were far greater across the country. But then again, you cannot really lose if you have nothing to lose. They will hope that “all politics is local” stays a local election phenomenon, but that remains to be seen for the general election.

Image Credit: Cameron Samuel Keys

Image Description: Oxford City Council