1. POLITICAL CHANGES APLENTY
2019 is a bumper year for local elections in the Eastern region with all local authorities having full or partial council elections. Excitingly this year will also see the new local authorities of East and West Suffolk holding their first elections. East Suffolk has been formed by the merger of Waveney and Suffolk Coastal, with West Suffolk comprising St. Edmundsbury and Forest Heath; as both authorities have seen an overall reduction in the number of council wards there have been, and will continue to be backroom horse trading to determine who gets to run in each ward.
2018 saw the strange and rapid death of UKIP England and it is not unexpected that the same will occur this year. Following the referendum of 2016 UKIP has seen its East coast strongholds crumble into the sea. Consistent with the national picture the vote has been split between Conservative and Labour. Last year’s local elections also saw the splintering of existing UKIP groups into more locally focussed movements, we saw this most dramatically in Thurrock where the entire UKIP group reformed as the Thurrock Independents to limited success.
In terms of areas to watch, Colchester could see the end of the rainbow (coalition) and the return to single party rule if the Conservatives are able to edge ahead of Labour, Lib-Dems and the Independents on the council. Uttlesford will see its first local election since 2015 when the ruling Conservative group lost 26% of its seats to the anti-development Residents for Uttlesford (R4U), the big shock of last year was the Blue to Yellow transition of South Cambs; we could see a similar shift in Uttlesford. Conservatives in Thurrock in 2018 did not have the night they were hoping for and failed to take overall control of the council, 2019 could be their year to do so. Norwich, once the eastern bastion of the Green movement has seen its Green Party group whittled away to a rump, 2019 looks set to be the year that Labour turn the whole city red.