Any analysis of results must take into account the absence of the Brexit Party and Change UKby John Curtice / April 30, 2019 / Leave a comment
Two new political parties have been formed in recent weeks. One, the Brexit Party, is effectively a breakaway from Ukip, the other, Change UK, has been formed by defectors from both Labour and the Conservatives. So one might assume that the local elections, taking place on Thursday in most of England outside London, will be a vital first test of these parties’ potential to break the mould of the existing party system.
Not so. For both are so new that they did not have the time and opportunity to nominate candidates for this year’s annual round of local elections. Thursday will be what might come to seem the last hurrah of the existing party system, with the Liberal Democrats unchallenged by the Change UK upstart that threatens their already rather tenuous grip on socially liberal pro-EU Britain, while Ukip will be the only (and rather limited) option available to those who are unhappy at the failure to date to extricate the UK from the EU.
The absence of the Brexit Party in particular could have a significant impact on the outcome. Since its formal launch just a couple of weeks ago the party has not only come to acquire most of the Eurosceptic vote that up to that point it was sharing with Ukip, but has also won new converts, as Leave voters who think the UK should have left the EU without a deal on 29thMarch defect from the Tories in droves. Across April as a whole, polls of vote intention for Westminster have put the combined support for the two Eurosceptic parties at 15 per cent, though in polls conducted since Easter the figure has been not far short of 20 per cent. Three-quarters of that tally is claimed by the Brexit Party.
That leaves a crucial question—what will those disenchanted Tory Leave voters do on Thursday? The most obvious answer would seem to be to vote Ukip instead, even though its leader, Gerard Batten, lacks Nigel Farage’s charisma and espouses what many regard as objectionable views about Muslims. However, although Ukip is fighting the local elections, it is only doing so on a limited basis. The party is contesting just one in six of the 8,300 seats up for grabs, far fewer than when most of them were last fought over…