The latest analysis of the results, including what it means for Brexit—and what we can predict about the next General Electionby Prospect Team / May 3, 2019 / Leave a comment
Alright, then. What’re the scores on the doors?
The Conservatives have already lost over 400 seats, with party chair Brandon Lewis saying that frustration over Brexit is to blame.
“I always said this would be a tough night,” he told Sky News, adding that the “impasse” over the implementation of the Referendum result has made it tougher.
Labour has also suffered a net loss of seats—around 80 as of the time of writing—but may pick up more later in the day. As Sir John Curtice points out, Labour is going “backwards” in the North (although it has gained Trafford Council).
On the other hand, the Liberal Democrats have done very well, picking up nearly 300 seats so far. The Greens have also made strong gains.
Ukip have failed to capitalise on Brexit frustration and have lost around 50 net seats.
Turnout is looking relatively low across the board, too: Jonathan Carr-West from the Local Government Information Unit has suggested it could be as low as one-third of the electorate.
Northern Ireland results come in later, but early reports suggest the Alliance and the Greens have done relatively well, with a mix of independents coming in there too.
Right. Does this mean people do or don’t want Brexit?
The main thing it means is people aren’t very happy about Brexit.
This morning, we’ve had both Remainers saying that Labour has lost votes for its refusal to advocate for a second referendum and Brexiteers saying Labour is losing out because Leavers are suspicious of its Brexit fudging.
There are flaws in both theories, however. It’s certainly true that Labour has lost some votes to the Lib Dems, who we might reasonably think of as the flagship “Remain” party at this point—but the latter aren’t fully back on Labour turf yet. In fact, the Lib Dem comeback (remember that phrase?) is most pronounced in Conservative areas.
At this point in the day, it’s more useful to think of voter constituencies as less “Remain” versus “Leave” and more “people happy with how Brexit is going” versus “people unhappy with how Brexit is going.”
The latter explains the move to the Lib Dems, Labour’s relative under-performance compared to what you’d expect at this point in the electoral cycle, and—most notably—the massive hits the Conservatives have taken.
So is this the revival of smaller parties?
To some extent.
It’s worth remembering that the locals are a particularly good point at which to vote for a local candidate from a smaller party; you might be a Conservative Remain voter, for instance, who recognises that your local Lib Dem councillor is very good at sorting recycling and decides to go ahead and vote for them given the national picture is a bit of a mess right now.
An interesting sub-plot of the results so far is a huge rise in the number of independent councillors being elected: a net gain of 85 at the time of writing.
What about the other, er, Independents?
Ah, the artist formerly known as the Independent Group. The results are something of a setback for them, in that the Lib Dems have done relatively well. (Neither Change UK nor Nigel Farage’s new “Brexit party” stood candidates.)
As the self-declared party of Remain, Change UK would hope that these results reveal an electoral vacuum for their brand of politics. The Lib Dem revival suggests that’s not quite the case.
You can read what Chuka Umunna has to say here:
Some thoughts from #ChangeUK on the Local Election Results…
— Chuka Umunna (@ChukaUmunna) May 3, 2019
And the Greens? Is this a sign that Greta Thunberg’s climate message is cutting through?
They’re also a conspicuously left-leaning Remain party, which—for instance—left-leaning Labour voters who have been put off by the party’s Brexit stance (or other aspects of Labour’s current offering) could feel comfortable looking for.
It’s certainly worth noting that climate change is becoming a bigger issue among British voters, though—over 90 per cent of Brits across all age groups now agree it’s real, while the average confidence in global governance to deal with it sits at a meagre 4.3 on a 0-10 scale.
Ouch. So looking to the next election…
Nobody is looking on course for a majority as of this morning.
At this point—nine years into a Conservative-led government—we would expect Labour to be doing better. However, if the Conservatives were going to win a majority at the next election, we would also expect them to be doing better.
There’s some speculation these results would extrapolate to a Labour-led minority government—but that shift aside, the main takeaway is that neither party has found a way to deal with Brexit that keeps enough voters onside to win outright.
More to come as further results come in.