Monday, 6 May 2019

Brexit: and how it really affected local elections

Independents have swept the board:
Futures Forum: District Council elections: Lib Dems and Independents "make significant gains across Devon"
Futures Forum: District Council elections: "Independents deliver blow to the Conservatives'" > further reports

And this has happened across the country:
Futures Forum: Independents set a trend for local elections

Something which propelled many independents into power in many parts of the country was people being fed up with Brexit and turning their backs on the two main parties:
Futures Forum: Brexit: and fearing a very low turnout at the local elections

One such place was Ashfield in Notts:
Local elections: Bricklayer and former community centre manager among independents who stormed to victory - Telegrpah

Although it can be overstated:

“While the media has been quick to frame the election results as a proxy battle for Westminster issues, it's easy to forget that local issues and local personalities can dictate the result of individual ballots, just as much as attitudes to wider national issues like Brexit.”

Independents surge in local elections | Latest Brexit news and top stories - The New European

East Devon's MP agreed:

The local elections are about your representatives, not Brexit.

East Devon District Council elections, Thursday 2 May 2019 | Hugo Swire

In which case, if the East Devon elections were only about local issues, then it was a pretty damning result for the ruling party:
East Devon District Council elections, Thursday 2 May 2019 - YouTube

On the other hand, if people were really disaffected with the two main parties, then the independents have not got much of a positive voice, as with this comment on independent Cllr Claire Wright's blog:


1. At 04:36 pm on 04th May Joan Kelly wrote:

It was a pretty low turn out in most Wards and many were protest votes against the Tory Government. People were saying they weren’t voting as there was nobody worth voting for. With such a low turnout I don’t see that the Indies have a true mandate. It will be interesting to see what happens if the European elections go ahead as most people are saying they will vote for the Brexit Party.
I can see the Council Tax going through the roof next year with some of the clowns who have been elected. People should have thought of that before they voted. 

Tories lose control of East Devon District Council in historic and spectacular Independent showing - Claire Wright

And yet the turnout was pretty much the norm for local elections:

The last comment should go to Thom Brooks, author of 'Becoming British' writing in the Huff Post - with thanks to the EDW blog: 

The Local Elections Showed Banging On About Brexit And Nothing Else Is A Fast Track To Extinction

If voters wanted to reward parties committed to making Brexit happen, why would Ukip get wiped out at the polls? If a People’s Vote is such an anti-democratic proposal why did we not see losses to the Liberal Democrats and the Greens?

Thom Brooks
Award-winning author, broadcaster, columnist and public speaker, Brooks is Dean of Durham Law School and Professor of Law and Government.

06/05/2019 07:43 BST | Updated 1 hour ago


The local election results show what has been described as a “
Brexit backlash”. The biggest losers on the night were the two parties, the Conservatives and Ukip, who are most clearly for Brexit. While Labour won a few councils, it lost about ten percent of its contested seats overall. The biggest winners were Liberal Democrats, Greens and Independents whose total wins outnumber Labour’s.

The obvious observation is voters returned to supporting third parties again. After disastrous results in 2015, the Liberal Democrats have won back local seats they have held before. But this simply describes what happened: it does not explain why some third parties and not others.

Some claim that voters sent a message of frustration about Brexit. This is probably correct, but we should not conclude this problem is only solved in making Brexit happen by finding whatever compromise is possible to get it over.

If voters wanted to reward parties committed to making Brexit happen, then they would not have nearly wiped out Ukip at the polls. If support for a People’s Vote is such an anti-democratic proposal that voters would flock elsewhere, then we would not see losses to the Liberal Democrats, Greens and a record number of independents who support a second referendum. In short, anyone who thinks starting Brexit will bring voters back will fail to understand that Brexit has never been about making Brexit happen.

The public are fed up with politics as usual, Parliament’s gridlock and politicians making promises that don’t come true. On the surface, making Brexit happen as promised in 2016 can look like the only solution. The problem is this gets the diagnosis all wrong. A Tory-Labour Brexit pact would likely cause both far more harm than good.

Voters who supported Brexit then or now share something in common with many pro-Remain voters: they want Westminster to pay greater attention to concerns on the doorstep and reconnect with the issues that matter most to them. Brexit was a way of giving the establishment a wake up call. If this was really about making Brexit happen, Liberal Democrats and Greens would be wiped out and swept away. But that did not happen either north or south.


Thom Brooks is Dean of Durham Law School and author of Becoming British

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