Considering Ed Miliband and some of his team were happy to gurn their way through a selfie taken by the risible Joey Essex during the last General Election campaign, there’s a rather pathetic irony to the fact that one of the lost Labour council seats in Wales last night went to a former ‘Big Brother’ contestant. The party held onto overall control of Cardiff, but Tory Boy Joel Williams becoming a County Councillor in the north Cardiff ward of Pontprennau and Old St Mellons after finding apparent fame on reality TV a couple of years ago doesn’t really look good for Labour on paper.
It was inevitable yesterday’s local elections would be viewed as a dress rehearsal for June 8, and if the results tell us anything, it’s not exactly anything we didn’t know already. The Conservatives have experienced the kind of revival at the polls that is normally the hallmark of an opposition party on the rise as opposed to a party that has been in government for seven years. At the time of writing, the Tories now control 21 authorities (gaining ten councils) whilst Labour is down to six (losing four councils). Labour’s worst defeat was to the SNP in its one-time Scottish stronghold of Glasgow, but it also performed fairly abysmally in Wales. The Tories only failed to capture overall control of Northumberland County Council when a tie with the Lib Dems for the South Blyth seat was won by the latter via the drawing of straws.
The absolute absence of an effective alternative to the Conservative Party in British politics at the moment was writ large last night; with Labour struggling, the Tories also benefitted from the collapse in the UKIP vote; as things currently stand, UKIP have won just one seat of those so far declared, a net loss of 105. Following the surge of votes the party received in 2015 resulting in just the solitary MP, perhaps the electorate have realised protest votes don’t really make much impact in the end after all. A similar realisation occurred between the two General Elections of 1974; in February’s the Liberals received over six million votes yet only gained 14 MPs; come October, the Liberal share of the vote had dropped, with the iniquities of the first-past-the-post system blamed on disillusionment.
The Lib Dems have hardly made a spectacular breakthrough in the local elections either; in fact, for all parties bar the Tories it’s been a bit of a disappointment, to put it mildly. If last night does serve as a blueprint for nationwide events in a month’s time, the prospects for opposition are pretty bleak. Even if the local election results are compared to the previous occasion in which these seats were fought – 2013 – rather than the last General Election, the picture for Labour is no less grim, with a clear loss of support in regions they’ve traditionally been dominant in.
It goes without saying certain prominent anti-Corbyn Labour MPs such as Stephen Kinnock have labelled the local election results as disastrous in a manner one would normally associate with the victor when assessing his opponent’s failings. But there are effectively two separate Labour parties in operation at the moment, and a bit like that ‘Star Trek’ episode when Captain Kirk is split into two halves, good & evil, each is weakened by the split from the other. It promises to be a strange experience door-stepping as a Labour MP during the campaign, praying the prospective voter answering the door doesn’t say the words ‘Jeremy’ and ‘Corbyn’. This ‘don’t mention the war’ element of Labour at the moment can hardly boost confidence amongst either the electorate or the party itself when it comes to June 8.
For all the PR about Theresa May’s appeal to certain demographics, her dull John Major-esque persona is an unlikely ace in that she doesn’t provoke the same passions her predecessor did; Cameron and his sidekick Gideon were detested in a way May isn’t, and it would appear the hate figure mantle has crossed the floor of the House this time round. Jezza is the Marmite leader in 2017, and when half of his own Parliamentary Party are as opposed to him as the more right-wing sections of the press, it doesn’t bode well.
It would help if the likes of John McDonnell would devote more time to healing wounds within the party and trying to glue it back together instead of whingeing about the media being against Corbyn; but, of course, the former task is a monumental one that McDonnell and the Corbynista cult won’t even countenance. It’ll be far easier to blame the upcoming electoral apocalypse on external forces than internal ones.
I wouldn’t really be that surprised if most people were as ignorant of which party runs their local council as I am; but the timing of these local elections, so close to the main event, has invariably seen them receive the kind of coverage they rarely do under normal circumstances. And while there’s no doubt a General Election attracts far more to the polling station and often results in people voting differently to how they do on an exclusively local level, as a test-run for what’s to come, it seems blue is the colour once again.
© The Editor