Sunday, 14 April 2019

Brexit: and the effect on local elections

There seems to be a backlash generally against politicians. This is happening over EU elections: 
Conservative MPs may boycott European election campaign | Politics | The Guardian 

And it's showing in the run-up to local elections:
Tories on course to lose control of councils across country as Ukip 'returns from dead' in Brexit backlash - Telegraph
Tory council candidates warn Theresa May party support ‘in freefall’ over her Brexit stance | PoliticsHome.com
Tory activists go on strike and donations dry up as Theresa May woos Jeremy Corbyn in Brexit talks - Telegraph

A piece from Sky News shows the depth to which this backlash has gone: 

'Incompetent, self-interested s****': Fear and loathing on the doorstep over Brexit

Activists have told Sky News that the reaction on the doorstep over Brexit can be "vitriolic".

By Lewis Goodall, political correspondent
Friday 12 April 2019 16:13, UK

Activists for political parties are hardy souls. They're used to braving the elements, leafleting and door knocking in the depths of midwinter and encountering the uninterested, the unruly and even the odd bloodthirsty dog.

But from conversations I've been having with councillors and council candidates from both main parties over the past few days, all campaigning for next month's local elections, the reaction they've received this time round has been of a quite different order.

The Tories, most of all, are in abject despair with many believing they are heading for the drubbing of their lives. One, a local chairman from Essex, told me that his prime minister's actions represent "an absolute betrayal of the British people". He told me: "Next month's elections are going to be absolutely pivotal - we are going to get absolutely hammered. We are struggling to get anyone to deliver leaflets, even members of our executive don't want to go out."

This theme of Conservatives being unable to turn out their own members was commonplace across the country. One exasperated Tory councillor told me: "Every association I've spoken to are struggling to get their members out. Members are saying, why should I get s*** on the doorstep and doors slammed in my face when I'm as angry as they are?" Most are unequivocal: they blame Theresa May and want her to go. "It isn't just six weeks of incompetence, it's two and a half years."

But this isn't just a rejection of the Tory party and Theresa May, the backlash extends to Labour too. I've spoken to a score of Labour councillors from up and down the country who are deeply concerned about the reaction they're getting.

Sky Views: Tories are right not to boycott the EU elections
Sky's Political Editor says activists won't campaign while Leave voters mete out their revenge.

One Labour councillor in south Yorkshire told me he'd seen nothing like it. "It's horrendous - worse than when people spat at us over Iraq," he said. "Canvassing feels pretty tough - mainly people want to tell us we are all corrupt and f****** useless."

At the other end of the land, a Labour councillor in Essex said: "This is by far the worst election I've been involved with. It's vitriolic. You knock at a door and the people on the other side scream at you. It'll take a generation to recover. All you hear is 'Labour are stopping Brexit. Corbyn is crap, the Tories are traitors, we are all the same'. People are clear, they won't be voting."

A Tory in north Yorkshire agreed that the Labour leader remained a saving grace in some Tory areas. He said: "Normally I'd think Labour would take control of our district council but speaking to their candidates they're getting it just as bad. If they had a competent leader this would be an extinction level event for the Conservatives. Instead, everyone hates them too."

What shines through in these conversations is the current malaise seems to transcend the remainer/leave divide and rather express a deeper dissatisfaction, a rage, a fury with the political class as a whole. Howsoever they voted in the referendum, voters seem to believe that the current crop of politicians have humiliated the nation in the execution of its result.

More than one councillor drew comparisons with the expenses crisis (and indeed, said that "was a walk in the park compared to this"). One said: "It is fury at the whole of parliament for being incompetent, self-interested s**** not interested in the good of the country. It's getting worse as every week goes by."

A full blown political crisis of confidence is emerging. In an odd way, it's a profound mutation from the currents which lay underneath the referendum result. Of a fashion, that was a vote of faith in the capability of the British state to manage a crisis and a profound political change, time and again, in 2016, I heard voters say variations of "I'm sure they'll be able to work it out". The last weeks seem to show that they can't.

Most worryingly of all, many candidates reflected to me that they worry that this anger may mutate into something rather more sinister. One Labour councillor told me he wouldn't risk standing in the European elections and that he thought the party's candidates might need security. A Tory spoke of the "abuse, threats of violence and hate" his party candidates are receiving on a daily basis. Another, deeply depressed with the health of British democracy, sadly opined "I'm convinced that someone is going to get hurt because there's lots of angry nutters who have had way too much internet".

Three short years ago an MP was assassinated in cold blood: in the wake of her death, much was written and said to the effect that we needed a kinder, better politics.

We feel a long, long way from that.

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