It was a very good night for the Lib Dems and Greens, while Labour Remainers argued the position of 'constructive ambiguity' had failed.
Remain campaigners have hailed the local election results as a sign of an anti-Brexit shift in public opinion.
As of midday on Friday the Tories had lost 487 seats – with Labour also losing seats.
The Lib Dems claimed to be the ‘big winners’ of the night, gaining over 300 seats.
Lib Dem leader Vince Cable said:
“Voters have sent a clear message that they no longer have confidence in the Conservatives, but they are also refusing to reward Labour while the party prevaricates on the big issue of the day: Brexit.”
But the pro-‘People’s Vote’ Greens were also big winners – securing what may be their best result in the party’s history. The party has gained over 50 seats.
That’s despite these seats last being contested following the ‘Green surge’ in 2015. Co-leader Sian Berry told the BBC new activists had been ‘actually listening to people’ unlike councillors in ‘one party states’.
On LBC, Berry said many seats were won in areas ‘you wouldn’t usually expect’ Greens to win:
Labour Remainers argued the results were a sign their party’s ‘constructive’ ambiguity on Brexit had failed:
This was the first Electoral test of our policy of “constructive” ambiguity on Tory #brexitshambles. It showed that when you cower in the middle of the road on the biggest existential crisis facing Britain for generations you get squashed. #FinalSay #PeoplesVote— Ben Bradshaw (@BenPBradshaw) May 3, 2019
But Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell took the results as a sign that voters wanted the big two parties to ‘sort’ Brexit. When challenged, he clarified that he meant the Brexit deadlock should be sorted ‘whichever way’.
The Deputy Leader of Labour’s MEPs Seb Dance said the results were: “A sign we need to get on with Brexit. Get on with killing it.”
Interim CEO of Best for Britain Naomi Smith said:
“Results so far indicate that these local elections mirror the substantial shift in public opinion we’ve been seeing against Brexit and for the public having the final say.
“People are tired of the Brexit mess, and tired of politicians telling them they can’t have any further role in this massive decision for the country. That won’t wash anymore, and, as these results show, the public will clearly punish politicians who continue to prevent their voice being heard.”
The campaign group pointed to research showing that 61% of constituencies in England now backing staying in the EU rather than leaving.
However, Independents also picked up hundreds of new seats, suggesting growing disillusionment with the main parties. The Local Government Information Unit argued many people voted primarily on local issues.
On the Today programme, pollster Professor John Curtice said the Lib Dem gains were unlikely to be driven by Brexit.
Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.
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