Waking up this morning, I couldn’t help resist wanting to find out the election outcomes when yesterday some people went to the polls voting for candidates in County Council elections up and down the land and some city mayoral elections. Southend, which is a unitary authority, did not hold an election and of course there is the biggie looming large, the General Election, still over a month away. But yesterday’s results are a useful barometer of how people feel.
Top of the BBC live feed reporting on the results was the statement: “BBC political correspondent Chris Mason tells BBC Breakfast that there is “loads more to come but the trends are pretty clear – Conservatives will be cheering,” he says and Theresa May may be thinking that “if things carry on like this, I was justified calling the general election”. He thinks Jeremy Corbyn could face “big criticisms” within his own party for Labour’s performance, while UKIP are “really struggling now to define what they exist for”. Meanwhile, a Lib Dem fight back “doesn’t seem to have happened yet“”. Nearer to home there were emphatic wins in Rochford for Mike Steptoe (Conservative) and in Basildon for Kerry Smith (Independent, ex-UKIP), which will no doubt cause local ripples.
Going back two years ago, I did not vote Conservative because there were too many social justice issues they failed to convince me they would address in an acceptable manner, as well as the leadership being dominated at the time by EU remainers, but then, sadly, none of the alternatives impressed me either. As I argued when the General Election was announced, I believed it to have been the right decision because of the new Brexit paradigm, while acknowledging opportunism was afoot. While I trust the Conservatives more than the rest regarding the economy and Brexit, my earlier qualms remain. I believe Britain needs a strong hand in what looks like acrimonious Brexit negotiations ahead, which an emphatic General Election victory will give, but I cannot ignore what is happening to our NHS, including the local situation, among many other matters. While I understand the government wants a vote of confidence regarding its Brexit negotiations, which I sympathize with, there are other important considerations which ought not be ignored. One other concern that should not be discounted by our politicians is low voter turnout. It would be a sad day if on June 8th the Tories won by a landslide because a. there was no credible alternative and b. the people were too fed up and apathetic to turn out to vote.
There is not too much in today’s result to encourage Labour and the Lib Dems, although no doubt both parties will create positive spin. Arguably, the Lib Dems about held their own and, while Labour made some notable headway, their showing bordered on disastrous and they have much work to do. Having lost almost all their seats, the UKIP bubble appears to have burst, with recent defections, Brexit appearing on track and other set backs taking their toll. The Green Party have held their own. And then there has been a rise in Independent sentiment – maybe by way of protest at mainstream politics. Significant will be the Scottish outcome and how the SNP fares (indications are that while the SNP’s hopes to advance have not been disastrous, they have been disappointing, indicating perhaps many do not share their stance on Brexit and Scottish Referendum – ed). The only party that can truly claim to have done well are Conservatives, which in the light of next month’s General Election is ominous. But as they say – there is all to play for, nothing should be taken for granted and we live in interesting times!