A series of briefings on the May 2021 elections from the House of Commons Library.
Elections for local councils in England, the London Assembly and Mayor, the Scottish Parliament, Senedd Cymru, seven ‘metro mayors’, Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), and a Westminster by-election in Hartlepool took place on 6 May 2021.
This Insight looks at who the candidates were, gender representation in the elections, and the results.
How did the parties do?
Overall, the election results were reassuring for parties already in power: Conservatives in England, Welsh Labour in Wales, and the Scottish National Party (SNP) in Scotland.
An early sign of trouble for Labour in England came with a Conservative win in the Westminster by-election in Hartlepool, previously a Labour seat. This was followed by the re-election of the Conservative mayoral candidate for Tees Valley with 73% of first preference votes, and Labour losing overall control of Durham County Council.
The results of the London and metro mayor elections in England, and the Senedd Cymru elections, were more positive for Labour.
In Scotland, the SNP gained one more seat in the Scottish Parliament, compared to 2016, but fell just short of a majority. As commentators have pointed out, although pro-independence (SNP and Scottish Green) parties have the majority of seats in the Scottish Parliament, there is a finer balance in the overall vote share between these two parties combined, and broadly pro-union (Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat) parties.
Results in detail
In English council elections:
- The Conservatives were the biggest gainers, with a net gain of 11 additional councils, and 234 more councillors.
- Labour lost control of 10 councils, and has 326 fewer councillors.
- The Liberal Democrats held six councils, and gained one. They had a net gain of eight councillors.
- The Green Party performed well relative to previous years, with a net gain of 88 councillors.
These council figures use the outcome of the last scheduled election for each council as their baseline, so they don’t take account of by-elections and any defections in the intervening period. In the metro mayor elections, Labour won five of seven seats, taking both the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and West of England seats from the Conservatives, and returning the first metro mayor for West Yorkshire (former Batley and Spen MP, Tracy Brabin). Labour’s Sadiq Khan, gained a second term as Mayor of London.
Conservative metro mayors kept their positions in the two other areas, including Tees Valley in the North East, where Ben Houchen took nearly three-quarters of the vote share. There were also five council mayoral elections; all were held by Labour, including Liverpool, where Joanne Anderson became the first black female mayor to lead a major UK city.
Party affiliations of elected metro mayors
In the London Assembly, Labour remains the largest party with 11 members – one fewer than after the 2016 election. The Conservatives are the second largest, with nine seats – one more than in 2016. The Green Party gained one and has three seats, and the Liberal Democrats finished with two seats, also a gain of one.
London Assembly seats
In Scotland, the SNP won 64 seats – one more than in 2016. This left them just short of a majority. The Conservatives have 31 seats, and Labour, 22 – two fewer than in 2016. The Green Party has eight seats, two more than in 2016, and the Liberal Democrats have four.
Seats in Scottish Parliament
Senedd Cymru elections reaffirmed Welsh Labour’s position; with a net gain of one seat compared to 2016, it has half (30) of all Senedd seats. Conservatives won 16 seats, a net gain of five from 2016, and Plaid Cymru won 13, a net gain of one. The Liberal Democrats have one seat, the same as after the 2016 elections.
Seats in Senedd Cymru
Police and Crime Commissioners (England and Wales)
There were 38 PCC elections which successfully elected a candidate: 34 in England, and four in Wales. 29 of 34 candidates elected in England were Conservative, compared to the 2016 elections, when 13 of 36 were Labour. The difference in the total number of PCC elections in England in 2016 and 2021 is because one authority – West Yorkshire – has a new metro mayor that also assumes the role of PCC, and because the 2021 Wiltshire PCC election will be re-run.
Of the four PCC elections in Wales, three returned Labour candidates, and one a Plaid Cymru candidate.
Still some way to go for gender equality
Democracy Club and the Fawcett Society produced estimates of candidate gender balances for all the major elections based on crowd-sourced data. These estimates have a small margin of error owing to the methods used. These estimates suggest that women were under-represented in all election types – making up just 32% of candidates. Elections for the London Assembly had the highest proportion of female candidates, at around 42%. Of those elected, women won more seats than men (13 of 25).
Gender by election type
In English local elections, Democracy Club and the Fawcett Society estimated that around a third of candidates were women.
In Scotland, an estimated 37% of candidates were female, and 58 women were elected (45% of Scottish Parliament seats).
Women were estimated to make up 31% of candidates for Senedd Cymru, but in the event 26 women gained seats – 43% of all seats. The first women of colour were elected to the Scottish Parliament and Senedd Cymru: Kaukab Stewart and Natasha Asghar.
Police and Crime Commissioner and mayoral elections were the least representative. Women made up an estimated 22% of PCC candidates, and 24% of mayoral candidates.
In 11 of 38 PCC elections – more than a quarter – there were no female candidates standing. Two of seven metro mayor lists were all-male, and only one female metro mayor was elected.
This is part of a series of Library publications looking at the May 2021 elections.
About the author: Nerys Roberts is a researcher at the House of Commons Library.
This briefing paper provides a list of all the women who have ever been elected to the House of Commons.
This briefing outlines the background to the expected new electoral offence of intimidation of candidates and the expected update of the electoral offence of undue influence.