The poor showing by both major Parties in the local elections makes a Brexit deal between them more likely.
The media are full of analyses, projections, opinions and other wild claims on the basis of last Thursday’s local election results. Most of them range from pointless to daft for a number of obvious reasons the average hack is too lazy to consider. The few elements that were significant have been largely glossed over.
The first thing to point out is that (roughly) 1 in 3 of the electorate turned up. Only the Guardian (of all people) recorded this….but did so without comment. It is silly beyond belief to project anything from an election where there really wasn’t a quorum in any realistic sense. But then, this is normal for a local election.
As I revealed recently, 300 seats were not contested at all, and the vast majority of them were Conservative. Thus, the Tory defeat was even bigger than it looked. A turnout of 36.3% sounds appalling, but it’s only 1% less than the last comparable local election. So you can safely ignore all the “voters stayed at home in protest” guff. People stay at home on such occasions because they feel (often rightly) that local government has no power, and none of those elected give a damn what their constituents think. Such is a problem based on British democratic structures and practices per se, not Brexit.
What was significant in my opinion is that Conservatives in particular chose not to abstain, but rather cast their vote elsewhere. Almost certainly, most of them voted LibDem, a failing but generally harmless Party – and thus suitable for tactical votes from the more involved end of Tory disgust. The Vincibles have been making great play of their success, counting every new vote they got as a victory for Remain. This is nonsense: they got the votes because the Brexit Party did not stand, most Tories would rather live in Haringey than vote Corbynista, and voting LibDem stands zero chance of harming Conservatism in any way at all these days.
That said, it does not follow that a very large percentage of disaffected Tory voters would automatically vote actively for Farage in a General election….especially one where the Labour vote was riding high. However, I think I would chance my arm and say they will give Nasty Nigel the nod at the euro elections….should they ever happen. Hold that thought, please.
The difference is that the euros will be about Brexit and only Brexit, and Conservative Leave voters don’t care about seats in Strasbourg, because they (quite rightly again) see it as a testicles free zone. Which might perhaps explain the constant screech of Guy Verhofstadt’s hectoring voice there.
The real loser last Thursday was Labour. 82 seats doesn’t sound like much compared to 1,334 Conservatives kicked off the train, but you have to remember that in local politics, the boys in blue have far more councillors per se than the reds. To lose even more Council control after nine years of idiotic economic management, untold real job losses, depressed real wages, State pension embezzlement and May’s shambolic Brexit performance was a unique feat. To see a ragbag of Yellows picking up over 700 seats while they were losing 82 does hammer home the narrow appeal of Momentum Labour.
The traditional Labour heartland usually stays away from local elections anyway; but in 2017 at the national level, a lot of the desperate did turn up for Corbyn. Whether they will or not next time now becomes a very open question.
With that in mind, I suspect it’s more constructive to judge these results in the context of the Cross-Party talks taking place between the two colours of the Establishment. The 1922 Committee of Conservative fatties is now (it seems) firmly of the view that May must go, and quickly. But if the inter-Party talks look likely to produce a deal, I still think the 1922 would hold its fire.
Equally, after the locals, Labour must now feel some need for evidence of what it could spin as “a constructive contribution made to getting a deal with Brussels after the Tories made a pig’s ear of it”.
Last but not least, Tinfoil Theresa needs a deal, and her own Party isn’t going to give her one. So to speak. And she is desperate to avoid a Brexit Party breakthrough in the euros.