I can’t remember the last time any election result in Britain didn’t make me thoroughly depressed, or at the very least, dismissively irritated (like that feeling you get when watching England play football, and the keeper falls over and accidentally throws the ball into the net). But today, I feel pretty good.
Everyone is going to spin this every which way, but make no mistake about it, this was a bad result for Labour. Had I had no source other than Corbynistas on my Twitter feed, this would have been obvious; man, I’ve never seen them so riled. The Tories would have considered it an okay night had they been able to hold onto one out of three of these London councils: Kensington and Chelsea, Wandsworth, Westminster. They held all three. K&C is the major surprise given the extensive campaigning by the Left in the district on the topic of Grenfell. Labour managed to gain a mere two seats from the Conservative Party in the end.
There was a lot of hype about Barnet, no overall control before yesterday, going to Labour. The Conservatives run Barnet council now.
At the other end of things, the Lib Dems have managed to gain more seats overall than Labour at the time of writing. They have made inroads into Labour councils in the north of England thought impregnable. The Lib Dems gained seven seats off of Labour in Hull; three in Sunderland. These are small numbers, yet they present several problems that Labour cannot ignore forever. In these very Labour friendly areas in which people voted for Brexit in large numbers, former Labour voters have been wooed by the Liberal Democrats. It could be that they are turning against Brexit in these areas as it has finally sunk in how badly hit they will be, more than almost anywhere else in the country. Meanwhile, Lib Dems shouldn’t overhype this (I say this, knowing they will): while gaining more seats than Labour has in these elections isn’t too shabby (if that happens), one should bear in mind how many local seats were lost during the coalition years and then consider how many gains would have to be made even to get back to a 2010 level. Which, let’s face it, wasn’t exactly threatening the duopoly in any meaningful sense, apart from a heady several week period in April of 2010 that turned out to be a fantasy.
Today makes me feel good about democracy. Sam Goldwyn, the American film producer and producer of memorable bon mots once said, “Individually, people are idiots. But put them together and they’re a genius.” He meant it in terms of film sales, but you can apply it to politics just as easily. The electorate said that Labour should stop being cocky and shoving Corbyn as the messiah in our faces; they told the Tories to be thankful Corbyn is leader of Labour or they’d be in big trouble, and they’d better not make a further hash of the whole Brexit deal; the Lib Dems were told that they might well be forgiven all of their supposed coalition sins so long as they start having something to say about anything that is mildly interesting. The system works, folks.