Robert Hayward: The anti-establishment election

Tory peer Robert Hayward. Credit: UK Parliament
Tory peer Robert Hayward. Credit: UK Parliament
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This year’s local election results are best characterised by one phrase: a plague on your both your houses.

Both the Tories and Labour have been clobbered by voters across the country for their Brexit indecision.

And the Liberal Democrats and a surprising number of independent candidates and groups have benefited. It has been the anti-establishment election.

But as we analyse the results it becomes increasingly clear that, although Brexit loomed large over this vote, people were not primarily voting along simplistic Leave and Remain lines.

The success of the Liberal Democrats – though it will be seized on by the party as indicating anti-Brexit sentiment – was actually evident in both Leave and Remain areas.

The rise in support for independents was even more illuminating, with the number of candidates unaffiliated to the traditional parties soaring.

Overall, it seems that voters were actually expressing a more general displeasure with the current state of British politics rather than anything else.

In Yorkshire, the picture was similar to the national result, with both the Conservatives and Labour putting in disappointing showings.

While Calderdale Council was won by Jeremy Corbyn’s party for the first time in 20 years, in other parts of the county – Barnsley, Sheffield included – the party lost out to the Greens and the Liberal Democrats, and some independents.

Labour will also be disappointed with the results in Leeds – where it lost seats to the Lib Dems and the Conservatives.

Reflecting on what the results mean more widely for the county and the country, it seems that the polarisation of British politics has left a huge gap in the middle, which others are rushing in to fill.

Looking forward, voters are likely to get another chance to express their views very soon if the UK takes part in European elections on May 23.

As it stands, politics is moving too fast to predict how this could unfold, and there will be many more options on the ballot paper which will shape the result.

The one thing that is almost certain is that the vote will be similarly dominated by Brexit and in all likelihood will become a substitute second referendum. So, watch this space.