The Sunday after Election Day is usually an opportunity for analysis and reflection. Political leaders take to the sofas to talk about how this election will affect them and their party. However, on this occasion, the Chancellor of the Exchequer did a round of interviews and yet rather than pouring over the results of the Local Elections talking about his Party’s significant wins or potentially damaging losses, the EU Referendum dominated all the questions.
Local Elections very rarely grab the imagination of the general public and, on reflection, this year’s was no different. For all the billing of these elections as the ultimate test of Jeremy Corby following his first eight months in office or as a chance to expose the widening chasms in the Conservative Party, it never really came to fruition. Rather, if a set of results could have maintained the status quo – this was them. Corbyn’s critics cannot claim that he has destroyed the Party at the polls and Cameron can just about claim he still has control of his Party.
There were some interesting takeaways from the elections. The Conservative renaissance in Scotland shows how poorly Labour are performing in the country. This is something Corbyn will have to drastically change if he wants to win in 2020. The SNP not quite getting a second majority means that we will have no Scottish referendum talk for the course of this Scottish Parliament. Quotes such as ‘you have to earn a referendum and we have not done that,’ will be comforting to believers in the Union.
In England, Labour were not destroyed as many hoped (feared) they would be. Rather they maintained many key councils and took back the Mayor of London.
Welsh elections saw a surge of support for UKIP which may have interesting repercussions for the EU referendum. It also saw further destruction for the Liberal Democrats who had generally seen something of a resurgence across the UK as a whole.
Whilst the Mayoral campaign could have been the most high profile battleground for the Party’s to showcase their policy, it turned into a dirty fight between one candidate who cared but was open for attack and another who never engaged his public. In the immediate aftermath, those claiming that Sadiq Khan’s win was a victory for aspiration were drowned out by those who wanted to criticise the tone of Zac Goldsmith’s campaign. The contest was a good deal worse for the lack of Boris’ charisma and the low brow nature of the campaigns left many feeling disenfranchised, longing for better options.
None of the major parties will feel that these elections have radically changed their programs for the next few years. That Labour could not capitalise on their comparative unity regarding the upcoming referendum may prove how ineffective an opposition they are. Although these results will allow them time, if this approach continues they face a real challenge in gaining enough political traction to win a General Election in 2020. It has also been interesting to see how far Khan has gone to distance himself from Corbyn’s Labour party. This could have serious repercussions for the leadership. As The Times rightly pointed out on Saturday, Sadiq has become ‘Labour’s most powerful politician.’
However, in politics, context is always key and in just six weeks Labour may well find themselves as the UK’s strongest party. The Conservative Party must now fight each other in the European Referendum.
As Mr Osbourne’s interviews show, these elections were not the centre of political attention. They were more of a side show; the Europa League of this political summer. The real business is to come and it should prove to be far more interesting.
Aaron Bass, Account Manager