Pro-EU voters crush Conservatives in UK elections
The ruling Conservative Party has been crushed in municipal elections across the UK in results that point to the importance of anti-Brexit cooperation ahead of the May 23 European election.
The Conservatives lost more than 1,300 councillors, the party’s worst performance since the dying days of former prime minister John Major’s government in 1995. Labour lost 82 councillors. The main opposition party would normally be expected to be forging ahead at this point in the electoral cycle. The Tory party has now been in power for nine years.
In South Oxfordshire, the heavy swing away from the Conservatives was partly the product of collaboration between Lib Dems and pro-EU Greens. It included activists from both parties running a joint campaign in one ward and leaflets advocating a “half green – half yellow [Lib Dem]” vote in a region which had recorded a clear remain majority in the June 2016 EU referendum.
The results were regarded as a signal of voters’ frustration with the main parties’ Brexit approaches.
An anti-Brexit backlash appeared to have driven support towards the Lib Dems, which had the best municipal election results in its history, as well as the Green Party and independents.
May drew a perplexing – and probably pre-prepared – conclusion from the return of the UK’s most vocally anti-Brexit party, the Liberal Democrats. The embattled leader told the Welsh Conservatives in the mid-Wales town of Llangollen: “I think there was a simple message from yesterday’s elections to both us and the Labour Party: ‘Just get on and deliver Brexit’.”
From a pro-EU perspective, the voters appeared to be saying the exact opposite.
The Conservatives lost 1,334 councillors and control of 44 councils while Labour lost 82 councillors and six councils. The Lib Dems gained 703 councillors and 10 councils. The pro-EU Greens added 194 councillors, although the party did not have overall control of any municipal councils. There were 606 new independent councillors while the pro-Brexit Ukip lost 144 councillors.
Ukip appears to have been eclipsed by former leader Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, which is being forecast to win the most European seats on May 23.
The pro-EU vote in England and Wales remains divided between the Greens, Lib Dems and newly formed Change UK, which might mean pro-EU parties return few MEPs.
Members of the three main UK-wide parties campaign together against Brexit last year. Picture credit: Eurasia Times