Big gains for Remain parties as local elections see ‘substantial shift’ against Brexit

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:

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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6 Responses to “Big gains for Remain parties as local elections see ‘substantial shift’ against Brexit”

  1. Carlos

    “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. ”

    Very very funny, the fact that for a lot of the population there was a choice of the 2 devious main parties, a pure remainer party and a few independents (if any) than no wonder the Lib Dems did reasonably well. If McDonnell thinks Brexit needs to be sorted “Any way” then he’s more deluded than I thought he was. Wait until 23rd May and you will see how much public opionion has changed!

  2. Tom Sacold

    This article is a joke.

    In most wards there was no alternative real Brexit candidate standing !!! Many Tory Brexit supporters simply didn’t vote in protest at May’s incompetence and as a result the Limp Dumbo or Greenie Weenie got in by default.

    I made sure I got my vote in for our local pro-Breixit socialist Labour candidate, despite the fact that he lost again.

  3. Tom Sacold

    The EU election will be a far more accurate test of feeling on Brexit.

  4. Boffy

    The European Parliament elections will indeed be a better measure. In most places in England, Liberal and Green candidates were not in a position to beat Labour or Tory. But, in Scotland and Wales the strongly anti-Brexit SNP and Plaid will be in a position to win, and so the anti-Brexit vote will increase substantially.

    London also didn’t vote in these elections, but will in the EP elections. Its strong backing for Remain, and the fact that the poll will be held on a PR basis, will assist pro-Remain candidates in coming together to oppose the deeply reactionary nationalist catastrophe that is Brexit.

  5. Patrick Newman

    If Labour adopts an anti-Brexit position it will have to accept it will lose heavily in its traditional constituencies in the EU elections – you could say “so what”. There is a large premium for Labour in killing the Brexit issue even if that means doing a deal with the Tories and moving on to focus on the real issues covered in the continuation of Austerity. The Tories will still be tearing themselves apart even after a deal because a proper trade deal with the EU will mean having to accept many features of the EU that motivated the Leave movement in the first place. Local elections results were ambiguous but not very constructive for Labour!

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