The local election disturbance will be followed by a far greater Brexit stormby Jonathan Lis / May 3, 2019 / Leave a comment
British politics quite often feels like an unpleasant hangover, but Labour and the Conservatives will be fully justified in spending today in bed: last night they both got absolutely hammered.
Although, at the time of writing, several council votes remain undeclared, it is clear the local elections delivered a nasty plague on both parties’ houses. The Conservatives are forecast to shed hundreds of seats, while Labour, which was predicted to make significant gains, has actually lost some councils. Local elections can vary in importance, but this could be the gust which presages a far greater storm. The last few weeks have set down the possible conditions for the collapse of the country’s two main political parties.
The problem is both are paralysed. The cause is Brexit. Leavers are furious with the Tories for negotiating a poor deal and extending the Article 50 process, and furious with Labour for countenancing a second referendum. Remainers are furious with the Tories for selling them out and ignoring the economy, and furious with Labour for continuing the fantasy of a “jobs-first Brexit” and not explicitly committing to a new vote. Meanwhile voters in the middle are enraged by the endemic failure they perceive across the political establishment, and wish to punish both its principal protagonists.
The key agony for the Conservatives, besides boasting the worst prime minister in modern British history, is that they believed their own hype for so long they can no longer unbelieve it. Five years ago Brexit more or less meant a Norway option, and it was perfectly plausible to envisage a common external tariff. But fanaticism and mission creep have long since subsumed both proposals into the narrative of betrayal, while a second referendum would apparently represent treason by voters against themselves. Unfortunately, the Tory leadership is beginning to understand that Brexit cannot be delivered in the current House of Commons without the promise of either a customs union or a second referendum. They also realise the electorate might eviscerate them if they called a general election. Consequently the party looks doomed.
The Labour Party deserves far greater sympathy. It never wanted Brexit and its membership still doesn’t. For three years the party has managed a politically brilliant triangulation strategy, carefully navigating a channel between Leavers…