Outside there’s a howling gale. Indoors, it’s time to reflect. It’s the weekend before the Local Elections (Thursday 2nd May) but, typically, for the MSM they are an irrelevancy.
This is astonishing for two reasons. One is that they will reveal the voters’ attitude to Ms May’s and the Tory Party’s Brexit shambles. The other is that they will be a barometer for the EP elections three weeks later.
It is also astonishing because, in the absence of “Brexit News” from ‘sources’ in Brussels or government, the MSM have filled their pages with ‘culture’ because it’s vital we all learn about what happened in “Game of Thrones” and other Netflix series rather than look at the state of our Nation.
The ‘Brexit News’ which have been published are about the waste of running the EP elections (see e.g. here), about the ‘new Parties’, and about single candidates. Since it’s the weekend, these must be female, so: Ann Widdecombe, Annunziata Rees-Mogg and Rachel Johnson.
However, I think it’s important that we look at the result of the last local by election which took place day before yesterday:
“Shropshire Belle Vue – Labour 603 (47.1 per cent, +4.1 on 2017) Lib Dems 403 (31.5 per cent, +3.2) Conservatives 152 (11.9 per cent, -12.3) Green Party 65 (5.1 per cent, +0.6) UKIP 58 (4.5 per cent, +4.5) – Labour hold.” (link)
Look at these numbers: the Tories lost over 50% of their voters who went to Lab, Lib and UKIP. I couldn’t find anything on the turnout – it must have been shamefully low. Update: the turnout was 39.5%, which is not at all bad for a local election (see here)
However – it’s this Tory loss which is important for both the Local and the EP elections, especially when we read that the Tories want to spend as little as possible on those elections:
“Brandon Lewis, the chairman of the Conservative Party, is considering slashing costs by not printing any leaflets or making any political broadcasts. Downing Street has suggested that the party may not even host a formal campaign launch as polls suggest the party will face a heavy defeat. While Theresa May has said she wants to secure a deal before May 23, avoiding the need for European elections, privately Downing Street believes it will be impossible to do so. The Conservatives are haemorrhaging support to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, with polling suggesting that half of Tory voters ready to turn their backs on Theresa May. (paywalled link)
As for Labour … see this:
“Jeremy Corbyn faced a widespread backlash over a draft Labour campaign leaflet that was due to be sent to voters around the country which failed party’s policy to push for a second referendum. The Huffington Post reported that key frontbenchers were not consulted on the leaflet, including Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, who was said to be “absolutely furious”. The leaflet is being rewritten to include the pledge. Mr Corbyn has been told by Labour MPs and MEPs he must offer a “clear commitment to a public vote” in his European election manifesto, amid fears that the party risks “haemorrhaging” votes to anti-Brexit parties.” (paywalled link)
Then there’s the climb-down by Lord Adonis, Labour’s MEP candidate in the SW. Read it on his facebook page – it’s a 180º turn from his previous position as described here:
“As part of his Brexiteer-baiting crusade, he has declared that Brexit “must be stopped”, that there should be a “public enquiry” after stopping Brexit that sees those responsible for it banned from ever holding office again, that Labour would “split if…complicit in Brexit” and was only indulging in talks with Theresa May as a “desperate pretense that some form of Brexit might be viable, when it isn’t.” (paywalled link)
One might therefore conclude that Labour’s Brexit is also a shambles while the Tory Party in general, from the top down, has given up on both the Local elections and the EP elections.
The important point to keep in mind is that Ms May cannot now cancel the EP elections. But – she is going to do something else:
“Government insiders say the Prime Minister has now given up hope of cancelling UK participation in the European Parliament poll by securing Commons approval for her withdrawal deal within the next three weeks. Instead, she is preparing for a determined push to force crucial withdrawal legislation through Parliament in time for the country to quit the EU by the end of June. Her new timetable will mean British voters are set to elect a new troop of MEPs next month […] who will have lost their jobs by the time the new European Parliament assembles on July 2. One source said: “The focus now is on hitting the June 30 deadline so the MEPs don’t take up their seats.” Most Tory MPs expect the party to be hammered in the euro elections scheduled for May 22, with the Brexit Party tipped by many to top the poll.” (link)
Tory Grandees are obviously quite happy to make clowns of the electorate by supporting Ms May in this EP/WA farce. Have they heard of the ‘Law of unintended consequences’, or do they think we voters, fed up with everything, will just go back to sleep?
There’s another interesting development to consider. While the talks with Labour are reportedly going badly, Ms May has opened another ‘front’:
“Northern Ireland’s political parties will meet for the first time in more than a year as they restart powersharing talks following the death of journalist Lyra McKee. Theresa May, the Prime Minister, and Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taoiseach, confirmed a new round of political talks aimed at re-establishing a devolved Government in Northern Ireland.” (paywalled link)
Here is the connection to Ms May’s WA:
“We have agreed to establish a new process of political talks, involving all the main political parties in Northern Ireland, together with the UK and Irish governments, in accordance with the three-stranded process.The aim of these talks is quickly to re-establish to full operation the democratic institutions of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement […]” (paywalled link)
Remember: Ireland and the EU claim the Backstop is vital to secure the GFA. One might therefore speculate that these talks could lead to some sort of ‘deal’ on the irremovable Backstop, to get Ms May’s WA through before her deadline.
We know that even the ERG would vote for her abomination if the Backstop were removed. A possible ‘deal’, a sleight-of-hand might just the way to achieve this.
Here’s my – admittedly machiavellian – thought experiment:
- The EP elections end in a crushing defeat of the Tories, with TBP topping the polls.
- Ms May gets her WA through by finagling and horse dealing.
- The newly-elected MEPs might as well not have bothered and go home.
- It’s May’s BRINO, so we Remain.
- She resigns as PM and there will be a new Tory Leader.
- An early GE is then called.
- TBP, UKIP, CHUK-TIG will have spent horrendous amounts of money on the now wasted EP elections.
- The Tories however, not having done so (see above), will sit on pots of money.
- At that GE these three Parties, in contrast, will have been impoverished by the wasted EP election and can’t compete.
- That GE will be ‘business as usual’, electionally, for the Establishment Parties.
- Depending on who the new Tory leader will be, Labour might not get into 10 Downing Street.
I fervently hope I’ll be proven wrong …