A lot of political pundits have pointed out that the two main Brexit sporting parties did badly in the English council elections last week and that pro-EU parties did well. This is true as far as it goes but then to take a leap and suggest, as many have, that it’s a sign that the people of England want Brexit to be stopped is way off the mark.
The emphasis on this results chart from The Guardian is on the sets won and lost and that tells a story. For sure the shambolic way both main parties have approached Brexit will have damaged their vote and I hate to be a killjoy (for my fellow Remainers) but the pro-Brexit parties won convincingly!
The pro-Brexit Tories won the election with 3,559 seats and then Pro-Brexit Labour came second with 2,202 seats, add the 31 UKIP and you get 5,610 councillors who stood for pro-Brexit parties.
Anti-Brexit parties did well in terms of winning seats but they started from next to nowhere and only won 1,616 council seats. The last I checked 1,616 was a lot less than 5,610. The Brexit parts got 3.5 times the councillors of the Lib Dems and Greens added together.
The Lib Dems are claiming they are on their way back and now control 18 councils and gained 676 councillors. However, in 2008 they controlled 31 councils and had more than 4,200 councillors. They are still nowhere near their results prior to the coalition Government and had to rely on a protest vote to get there.
“Others” got 1,199 up 285 but you can’t say with any certainty if those others even said anything about Brexit in their campaign materials many were standing on local issues, bin collections and more money for the local sports club etc. As for it being a clear signal or a mass rebellion against Brexit the turnout was 36.3%, slightly down on the 37.7% on the last local elections.
So let’s be clear the Tories may have lost a lot of seats and had a bad night but they beat Labour into second place by 1,539 councillors and pro-Brexit parties won overwhelmingly. Perspective?
So where can we get a clear message on Brexit? Well the EU elections will do that and here is YouGov again, this time on EU voting intentions, firstly across the UK and then in Scotland.
In England, the Brexit party looks set to romp home with 30% of the vote (and rising) but the proBrexit parties overall polling at 64%. Try stopping Brexit when the Brexit party has just won the EU elections. Brexit looks more likely to happen now not less and as I have already suggested both Labour and the Tories have a lot to lose if they don’t do a deal to make Brexit happen and actually stop the EU elections.
In Scotland, we have a different story.
The SNP lead in EU Parliament polling, with 40%. In distant second and third are Labour (14%) and the Brexit Party (13%), with the Tories in fourth place on 10%. This roughly translates to SNP 3, Lab 1, Brexit 1, then 50/50 as to whether SNP or Tories get the final seat.
Scotland and England are very different politically and Labour and the Tories need to make Brexit happen to survive in England but they need it not to happen to slow down Scotland’s rising independence support, now sitting at 49% – The SNP are right to wait and see what happens.