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politics

Local Election Carnage: Brutal Results for Both Labour and the Tories

The Lib Dems mopped up as the big boys took a beating for their Brexit positions.

by Gavin Haynes
03 May 2019, 2:18pm

Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May (Rupert Rivett / Alamy Stock Photo / WENN Rights Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo)

Was it a win for "Giant cock drawing"? Or did "CUNTS" shade it in the end? And what of late challenger: "None of the above you dismal turdfolk"?

Yes, this was the spoils election, the "No thanks" poll, the moment at which the voters finally got to share in the nervous breakdown their Parliamentarians have been enjoying since Christmas by choosing between options they didn’t like, with no ability to express themselves beyond a giant douche and a turd sandwich.

Take Hartlepool – a fine example. A Labour council since the first amoeba crawled out of the primordial soup, it now has enough Lib Dem councillors that it has reverted to "No Overall Control".

Compare it to North East Somerset. Tory since the first amoeba shagged another amoeba. Again, it has swung to No Overall Control, due to the spike in support for the Lib Dems.

North East Somerset voted 57.9 percent Remain. Hartlepool voted 69.6 percent Leave. Have the Lib Dems come up with a canny package that satisfies these two diametrically opposed constituencies? Not in the slightest.

They’ve simply reverted to their true historic mandate: to soak up the protest votes at unimportant elections. To be basically nothing at all. It’s very revealing that wherever an independent stood, they won, on average, 25 percent of the vote.

But for the vast majority of those who bothered to find their polling station (turnout was 32 percent), only four parties greeted them on the ballot sheet: Labour, Tory, Lib Dem, Green. Protest your way out of that.

Many still tried. So it’s no wonder that the Greens earned a lively bounce, while Sir Vincent Cable’s party managed to pick up eight councils, at the time of writing. Labour have only managed to pick up one.

The Tories have received a drubbing – they’re down 450 by now, estimated to end the day close to the 1,000 top-end of predictions at the start of the week. But the failure of Labour seems like an even more dismal narrative forming. Labour have gained only a single council: Trafford.

In Bolsover, some 18 independents were elected overnight to wrest it from Labour control. Bolsover has been Labour since protons didn’t have neutrons. Its MP is Dennis Skinner – an 87-year-old sack of Pure Labour who has ruled over the town since 1970. Seventeen of those 18 councillors have no previous experience. Merge all those newbies into one human clad in a Brexit Party rosette, and Skinner is now a whisker from being turfed out at a general election.

Labour has also shed the likes of Burnley, Cannock Chase and The Wirral, breaking the seal on a long-term trend that means that where you live is now less important than region, age and culture. The Northern Labour vote, once so high that you only had to weigh the ballot papers, not count them, has for years been cracking under the long-term weight of employment patterns. It is now split fully apart by the fulcrum of Brexit.

The Electoral Cycle always has a magical aura to political insiders, even though it might not apply to our post-2016 world – but historically, any party that went on to form a government has first made huge gains at midterm local elections.

In 2008, David Cameron won 44 percent of the vote, to Labour’s 22. In 1995, Tony Blair won 1,807 new councillors, on a 47 percent vote share. Even Neil Kinnock, whose greatest claim to fame was as Europe’s longest-serving opposition leader, would regularly chalk up big gains in the locals against Mrs Thatcher.

What we have instead is trench warfare, a grim stalemate, in which the two major parties increasingly look like they have more in common with each other than with the voters.

Labour’s policy of constructive ambiguity has brought ambiguous results. Voters might not be tracking the twists and turns line-by-line, but they’ve sniffed out enough about Corbyn’s Brexit position to understand that something’s off. The problem with telling Leave voters you’re Leave and Remain voters that you’re Remain is that, once they work out the code, they’ll never trust you again.

In Sunderland, council leader Graeme Miller said Labour had paid a heavy price for the town’s MPs’ calls for a second referendum. "I lost ten councillors tonight because of that Brexit message,” he said.

Meanwhile, Houghton & Sunderland South MP, Bridget Phillipson, was just at that moment sliding into journalists’ inboxes, courtesy of a “People’s Vote” press release, calling it completely the other way: “[These results show that] the majority of Labour voters now want a People’s Vote… I fear Labour’s position has been too hesitant.”

If you can’t make big gains against a government who make Gavin Williamson – a man who kept a tarantula called Cronus on his desk – a Secretary of State, then who can you win against?

Not Nigel Farage, now coming for those fatally wounded northern seats in three weeks's time. Perhaps Nigel will even draw succour from the fact that UKIP’s ongoing implosion frees up the decks for him.

In Sunderland, UKIP managed to gain three seats, but elsewhere its results have been dismal. It has lost 54 seats as of writing, but retained only 17. After staving off bankruptcy last year and mass resignations in the wake of Nigel’s departure, the party is in such dire straits that they only managed to contest 16 percent of available seats this time around, as opposed to 40 percent in 2014.

This morning, Conservative minister Brandon Lewis was touring the news studios, wiping off the blood with blandishments about how "the message is that the voters want us to get on in these negotiations with Labour". Just behind him, Labour’s John McDonnell was tweeting: “So far message from local elections: ‘Brexit – sort it.’ Message received.” Check your message settings please, gentlemen: they’re completely wrong. At this point voters just want you both to dig a hole and jump in it. In just under a month, they’ll have a few more weapons at their disposal to dig the hole for you.

And don’t think that coming to an agreement on a Customs Union gets you out of that either. That would sell out Brexit voters while simultaneously going through with a Brexit, albeit a pointless one. It would be the final grand act of mutual self-mutilation.

There would at least be something quite poetic in it – Labour and the Tories, agreeing to stab each other in a death-clinch last stand, in the name of selling out most of their respective voters. Hell, at this point, it might even be The Decent Thing – the very least they could do to make it up to us.

@gavhaynes