Vince Cable's party achieved its largest number of seat gains ever. But is a Remainer backlash really the cause?by Matt Singh / May 3, 2019 / Leave a comment
For years, rival politicians and political analysts have mocked the idea of a “#LibDemFightback”—particularly after the party’s poor showing in the 2017 general election.
After this week’s local elections, however, some of them will be reconsidering.
Most of the results are in from the votes across provincial England, with only a handful of councils yet to declare.
In terms of seats, the Conservatives have lost over 1,000 of them, very much at the weak end of expectations, due in a large part to the success of the Liberal Democrats. Labour has not made the gains it was expected to and is set to finish with a net loss.
The Lib Dems, as well as independent candidates, are the big winners in terms of seats—as were the Greens in terms of vote share.
But these changes from last time aren’t independent of when that was—these wards were last contested in 2015, on the Day of the Conservatives’ best general election result in a generation, and the Lib Dems’ worst ever.
It’s therefore helpful to think in terms of the national vote shares each party would have polled if elections had been held everywhere.
The BBC’s projected national shares put the two main parties on similar levels of support at about 28 per cent, with the Lib Dems on 19 per cent—their best result since 2010.
This is a bad result for both main parties. It is arguably worse for Labour, since opposition parties—even those that go on to lose the next general election—normally win clearly on this measure.
But nor is it good for the Conservatives—this sort of vote share is poor even for a governing party. It should also be noted that the Brexit Party, responsible for the bulk of the Conservatives’ losses in polling for Westminster elections, and especially for the European elections expected in three weeks’ time, did not contest these elections.
Indeed the overall theme seems to be one of “a plague on both your houses.” Both are losing ground in traditional areas of strength—this has manifested itself in a reversal of the traditional north-south divide, but the same trend is in evidence even down to ward level.
Given the broader political context, what do these results tell us about the electoral impact of Brexit? Firstly, despite the talk of widespread…