Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have vowed to press ahead with seeking a cross-party solution to the Brexit deadlock at Westminster, after voters punished both major parties in local elections.
The Conservatives have suffered their worst local election result since Tony Blair’s humiliation of John Major 25 years ago as they lost over 1,300 council seats (net). In 1995, they lost more than 2,000 seats to a rejuvenated Labour Party that swept them from power in Westminster two years later and kept them out for 13 years.
The Conservatives lost control of 45 councils in a result that far outstripped their worst fears of an 800-seat reversal.
The FT analysis how in areas where more than 70 per cent had voted to Leave, the Conservative vote fell an average of eight per cent — a relatively manageable level given the collapse in support elsewhere.
The Liberal Democrats were the clear victors of Thursday’s vote, beating expectations with a net gain of more than 500 seats, and taking control of 11 councils, doubling their national council tally.
Lib Dem gains were spread evenly across Remain and Leave voting areas, with the party increasing its numbers of councillors by more than 50 per cent on both sides of the Brexit divide.
For the Labour Party, from a Brexit perspective, Labour’s performance was a mirror image of the Tories. The vote for the party held up well in majority-Remain areas, but in areas where 60 per cent or more had voted to Leave Labour lost six per cent of its councillors. In areas that were 70 per cent or more Leave, Labour losses more than doubled to 19 per cent. Overall, eight of the nine councils where Labour lost control were in areas where a majority voted in 2016 for Leave.
As one can see, the Tories were not alone in being punished for their Brexit failings, as Labour – which had predicted widespread gains – ended up with 63 fewer seats.
The two big parties’ reverse brought their share of all British councillors to its lowest level since 2010. Extrapolations of what their percentage of the national vote would have been had the entire UK voted on Thursday put the Conservatives on 28 per cent of the vote, level with Labour.
Meanwhile, Theresa May faced a chorus of demands to quit as Tory leader from her own MPs and members after she was personally blamed for a devastating voter backlash over Brexit.
The Guardian reports that the prime minister, who was heckled by a party activist as she began to address the Welsh Conservative conference, said the voters were giving a “simple message” to the Conservatives and Labour: “Just get on and deliver Brexit.” She conceded that the results were “very difficult” and apologised to councillors who had lost their seats, saying they were not to blame.
The Telegraph‘s report says that on a “night described as “brutal” by the Tory MP Vicky Ford, who appeared close to tears during a live TV interview, thousands of voters spoilt their ballot papers to register personal protests while others expressed their dismay with the mainstream parties by backing independents.
Labour, which had expected to profit from the Conservatives’ failure to deliver Brexit, ended up losing dozens of seats as Jeremy Corbyn became the least successful Opposition leader of the past 40 years.
Mrs May has been warned by her own ministers she must not now bow to Labour demands for a customs union with the EU ahead of fresh Brexit talks with Jeremy Corbyn or face further electoral disaster.”
The Independent reports Senior cabinet ministers have rallied around to save Theresa May, ahead of a showdown meeting to decide her fate following the local elections massacre.
The prime minister will face fresh demands from Tory grandees on Tuesday to set a fast timetable for quitting, as a shocked Conservative party contemplated the loss of 1,334 local councillors.
Graham Brady, the head of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, is expected to meet Ms May on Tuesday to again urge her to set a date for her departure.
If she refuses, they will consider rewriting the rules to allow a fresh vote of no confidence this summer – a move the 1922 stepped back from last month.
via The Telegraph / The Guardian / The Independent / Financial Times