06. May 2019, 15:21 Uhr
In last week’s local elections in England and Northern Ireland, voters dealt a heavy blow to the Conservatives, while Labour with its wholly unexpected net loss of seats got its own whacking, too.
The scale of the Conservatives’ losses, though, might be misleading in terms of Brexit, especially so if compared to the huge gains made by the Liberal Democrats.
The Conservatives lost most heavily among Leavers frustrated over Brexit having being postponed twice, whereas the Lib Dems won lots of votes in both anti- and pro-Brexit constituencies such as Sunderland (though the majority of their gains, of course, came from the former). And in terms of council majorities, the single biggest ‘winner’ of the night was NOC, i.e. no overall control by any party resulting for an additional 37 councils, whereas the Lib Dems managed to scoop a mere ten.
Hence, it would be mistaken to interpret this election as the expression of a huge swing in the mood of the electorate against Brexit. Rather, without a pro-Brexit alternative on the ballot paper since Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party didn’t stand, leave supporters vented their frustration by staying home or voting for locally focussed independents (the third huge winners of the night), while Remainers (belatedly) began to rally around the single unequivocal anti-Brexit party, the Lib Dems.
As such, we anticipate these local elections to speed up the Brexit process one way or the other, though most likely not towards the retraction of Britain leaving the EU. If anything, these results have served to scare MPs of both main parties in Westminster into avoiding an early general election come what (M)ay. The only way to do just that, however, is to eventually ratify the hated Brexit deal reached between Brussels and Her Majesty’s Government.
If, by the same token, even in these circumstances the two main parties cannot agree on a common approach to Brexit, a general election is virtually inevitable – as we’ve been projecting for months now.