Last week’s local election results will soon be trivial in comparison to the seismic political events that lie ahead. The imminent skirmish between the Government and the European Union will overshadow anything else happening in Westminster.
Nevertheless, the results must be discussed. On the surface, however, there appears little worth discussing as there was no clear winner. Labour’s hopes for painting London and England’s councils red failed to materialise. And the Tory anxieties were seemingly unjustified. Admittedly Labour did secure their best result in London since 1971, yet they failed to win any Tory councils in the capital – key targets such as Wandsworth were not won.
The expectations were exaggerated. Corbyn followers such as Owen Jones predicted a national surge in socialist support, but this was never likely. Aside from Corbyn’s obvious flaws and his unsuitability for governance, the fallout from his recent handlings of Salisbury and antisemitism within his own party likely marred Labour’s performance. The latter ensured that areas such as Barnet rejected a Labour-controlled council.
Jeremy Corbyn will never be Prime Minister as his methodology of promising ‘the many’ anything and everything will soon be exposed for what it is: fantastic on paper, quixotic in the real world. His cult-like image – an inherently un-British phenomenon – will wither in time. And his foreign policy blunders will soon become too much to bear. I admit to feeling great enjoyment when I read that in Dudley, where Corbyn himself visited twice, Labour lost.
Meanwhile, any humiliating defeats for the Tories were avoided. While they lead a government utterly paralysed by its lack of a parliamentary majority and internal divisions on Europe, they do represent the best chance of delivering the Brexit that was voted for in 2016. Sure, the Prime Minister is a lame duck, but she is, oddly, the only person capable of securing our exit from the EU.
The balance of power hasn’t changed all that much. The Conservatives are lucky that the opposition is as useless as they are divided. However, the results of last week do point towards one thing: an unstoppable drift towards a ‘hard Brexit’.
The face of the Conservative Party is changing, which will affect Brexit. One would be forgiven for celebrating the virtual extinction of UKIP as a political force. However, Farageism has never been stronger. Former UKIP supporters, recognising that those in blue are their only chance for a reputable Brexit, changed allegiance last week. Groups of supporters from poor, hard-bitten and roughneck areas latched themselves onto the Tory party; consuming the populist rhetoric voiced by charlatans like Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Brexiteers such as Boris Johnson heralded the results as a clear sign of the necessity for a ‘clean Brexit’. This would mean that the Prime Minister cannot pursue her favoured ‘customs partnership’ nor, more seriously, can she hope to avoid a hard border in Ireland.
What we are facing is a dirty Brexit, where the country will likely become more divided than it is now. For if we hope to avoid a hard border, we must remain in the customs union. But this would be justifiably unpalatable for Leave voters. Similarly if we want to strike trade deals with countries around the world, we must leave the customs union.
The local elections results changed little; the country remains in state of paralysis. However, the signals it points towards are what I fear most: my party meandering to the far-right and our country jumping into isolation and internal discord.