Labour and Tories hit by Brexit backlash in local elections | Politics News
Labour and the Conservatives have been hit by a Brexit backlash, while the Liberal Democrats, Greens and independents are enjoying a Brexit bounce.
On a night of town hall turmoil in the local elections, broadly speaking Labour have done badly in the pro-Brexit north of England and better in the pro-Remain south.
For the Tories it’s the opposite: struggling in the south and yet embarrassing Labour in its northern heartlands. The Lib Dems have gained some spectacular scalps and independents are on the march.
The two big parties wanted these elections to be about bins, not Brexit. Fat chance. Brexit has dominated and polarised UK politics for three years and threatens to continue to do so for years to come.
Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour critics will claim their party’s results are dire, considering these are mid-term elections after nine years of a Tory government, the Conservatives are in a state of civil war over Europe and hell-bent on removing their leader.
Yet at the same time, Theresa May’s enemies in the Tory party – in parliament and in local Conservative associations – will claim vindication of their campaign to oust her.
These results confirm the suspicions of many MPs that the next general election, whenever it comes, will result in another hung parliament.
One outcome of these results, however, is that the leadership of both big parties are likely to be more determined than ever to come to a deal to bring the slow torture of Brexit to an end as swiftly as possible.
Good luck with that, though. While wise heads on both sides will want to come to a deal on Brexit, there are irreconcilables, malcontents and mavericks who will do everything they can to sabotage moves to reach a consensus between government and opposition.
Mrs May, who is addressing both the Welsh and Scottish Tory conferences while some of the later results are still coming in, will claim the results are a warning to the politicians at Westminster to deliver Brexit without further delay. That was certainly the message from many of the distraught Tory council leaders dumped by voters in the Brexit backlash.
Mr Corbyn and his inner circle of Brexiteers, who are firmly opposed to the calls from Labour Remainers for a second referendum, will claim the results justify the Labour leader’s ambiguous Brexit policy.
Really? That’s not what many Labour MPs and their defeated council leaders are saying. Also, many pro-Leave voters would be perfectly happy to leave the EU with no deal.
And to most Labour voters, Leave and Remain, Mr Corbyn’s nuanced policy of campaigning for a second referendum as a last resort looks muddled and indecisive.
Labour suffered bad results in Brexit strongholds like Sunderland, Hartlepool, Wirral and Barnsley, yet had a good result in Trafford, Greater Manchester, where the Tories’ 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady is an MP.
Some Labour council leaders told Sky News the party’s working class voters stayed at home, yet turnout wasn’t particularly low for local elections.
Perhaps the most startling Brexit backlash came in the Tories’ disastrous result in North East Somerset, where Leave cheerleader Jacob Rees-Mogg is MP.
The Tories also suffered losses to the Lib Dems in Sir John Redwood’s Wokingham and lost control in St Albans, Southend and Peterborough and were ousted by the Lib Dems in Winchester.
Politicians like to claim that disappointing results mid-term mean nothing in terms of the next general election. Yet these results confirm the suspicions of many MPs that the next general election, whenever it comes, will result in another hung parliament.
Before then, both big parties face an even more horrendous set of results in the European Parliament elections on 23 May. Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party are on the rampage and already ahead in the polls. Remember, they weren’t standing in these town hall elections. Labour and the Tories have already got the jitters about the Farage surge. Both parties would prefer the Euro-elections weren’t happening. But they are, so there’s no point moaning.
The Brexit backlash in these local elections is a mere blip compared with what’s coming on 23 May. And indeed in the Peterborough by-election on 6 June, when Mr Farage’s Brexit Party will be standing.
A terrible set of results for the Tories now and over the next month will almost accelerate a Mrs May departure from Downing Street. The calls from Tory MPs and council leaders for her to quit now were already growing reaching a crescendo in the early hours.
But Mr Corbyn can’t afford to be smug after these local election results. There’s a grim warning for Labour here as well.
The voters have spoken. Some obviously don’t want Brexit. The rest are saying: Fix it, or you’ll pay a heavy price. In the town halls, Labour and the Conservatives already have.