What does the future hold for Sheffield’s political parties?
It’s one of the most tumultuous times in political history with a departing Prime Minister, MEPs elected amid the confusion of Brexit and constant talk of general elections and second referendums.
At a local level in Sheffield, the political landscape has also shifted. Labour is down to 49 seats out of a total of 84 on Sheffield Council following the local elections.
The Liberal Democrats have 26 councillors, the Green Party are up to eight and UKIP now has just one – meaning it no longer qualifies as a political group on the council.
Labour still has a healthy majority but there are already suggestions that the council could see a Lib Dem and Green coalition by next May’s local elections.
Labour would need to lose a net seven seats to lose overall control of the council. If the council was tied on a vote, it would be decided by the casting vote of the Lord Mayor – who from May 2020 will be Lib Dem councillor Gail Smith.
Lib Dem leader Shaffaq Mohammed said he didn’t want to be drawn on predicting the future but would be open to working collaboratively.
He said: “As the largest and most effective opposition party on the council, we always look to see where we can co-operate on issues of mutual interest to ensure the impact on local people is minimised by the terrible way Labour is running the council.
“We, of course, will offer our positive view of how the city and council can be run at the next local elections.
“It’s down to the people of Sheffield to decide on the number of councillors from each party to be elected.
“It is not down to me as leader of the biggest opposition party to start to do deals behind closed doors before they have voted in next year’s elections.
“However, whatever the result, as in the past, I am open to working in a collaborative way to achieve common goals to take forward this great city.”
The Greens share a similar view. Coun Douglas Johnson said: “A lot depends on the exact details.
“Where there is no overall control, there would need to be sensible negotiations between the parties, over a range of options.
“So, it isn’t possible to say at this stage what the likely outcome would be, except that Green Party councillors want to see the council run in a way that puts the best interests of Sheffield people first.”
Labour, however, is not going anywhere without a fight.
Deputy Leader Olivia Blake said: “I question whether Green councillors would prefer a pro-austerity Lib Dem council to an anti-austerity Labour one.
“The Greens might want to look at Sheffield Lib Dems track record of broken promises and support for austerity before they decide to prop them up. I’m sure many of their voters will.”
Sheffield has seen two hung councils previously. In 2001, Conservative councillors Anne Smith and Matt Dixon held the balance of power which meant Labour and the Lib Dems had to battle to secure their support for votes.
Labour won full control of the council by a small majority before it again went to no overall control in 2007. Once again it was Anne Smith, a Dore and Totley councillor, who held the balance of power.
Mrs Smith eventually lost her seat to Lib Dem councillor Colin Ross by just 300 votes when the Lib Dems took power in 2008.