In the wake of the first Labour local council victory in Medway, Kent since 1998, I draw some post-election consequences after the local elections in England. Undoubtedly, this is a disaster in terms of what was predicted.
My part in the Tories’ decline
At a personal level, I was delighted to play my part in the Tories’ decline in Medway, through long term campaigning, mass Brexorcisms in pubs, cafes, supermarkets, bus stops etc., doorstepping in Tory voting areas. My family loaned 12 votes to Labour this week. However, I shall not repeat this performance in a General Election, unless Labour turn on Brexit and Europe.
I have put them on notice to this effect. My MP Rehman Chishti became so desperate that he decided to attack Suella Braverman about her recent demonisation of Pakistani Muslims in The Observer. This is significant, in so far as Mr Chishti has an impeccable record in voting with the prevailing cabinet. His unbridled attacks appear to have sprung from sheer desperation and a desire to pick up the Pakistani vote in my area. He failed.
Sunak is under pressure from the European Research Group (ERG) to go further right with his policies. As a holding statement on The BBC on Friday, he simply repeated his five priorities and claimed that people who cannot afford to eat were more interested in stopping the boats. Even James O’Brien is not sure what Sunak means by lurching to the far right. He frivolously suggested on LBC that it might involve bringing back the birch.
I called James to discuss Sunak’s options. Paradoxically, I suggested that Sunak would be better advised to move towards the centre ground of politics. James and I riffed away to my catchphrase ‘Sunakered’, coined in 2022. James believes it is worthy of a Daily Mail headline ‘if some guy wasn’t going to wear his mum’s hat and sit on a chair on Saturday’. Listen into to our riotous conversation at LBC James O’Brien.
In his weakened state, Sunak now needs some scapegoats. Given that the Select Committee has not yet reported on Boris Johnson’s multiple illegal, immoral and indecent behaviours, a convenient distraction would be for this committee to make a strong verdict against Johnson soon, such as full suspension from parliament. This would allow Sunak to blame the current malaise in the Conservative party on Johnson and Truss’ catastrophic mishandling of the country. It would also allow him to exorcise Johnson’s ghost without having to do anything himself. This is the way that Sunak likes to handle his HR decisions.
The other big news about the election was voter id and voter suppression. Early indications suggest that this will have disadvantaged specific demographic areas such as ethnic minorities, the disabled and young people. The Government now runs the Electoral Commission and they decided not to record any data from polling stations.
It is therefore quite likely that will be serious under-reporting on the extent of voter suppression in these elections. Edwin Hayward reports on over 70 case studies of voter suppression. They are almost certainly the very small tip of a very large electoral fraud iceberg. These elections have demonstrated that the voter id system is totally unfit for purpose.
The Scottish position
Although the local elections are a hammer blow for the Tories, at the time of writing they are not catastrophic. If Labour cannot reach the magic number of 40% vote share in these elections, it is unlikely that Labour can win a General Election outright. This explains why Labour want to take 30 seats in Scotland.
I predict an informal coalition of aggression between Labour and Conservative to viciously attack the SNP on any agenda and exploit the change of leadership. Granted that the SNP’s transition could have been smoother, I believe we will see some very bad behaviour from both Labour and Conservatives in the coming weeks and months.
That said, the SNP’s problems are temporary. The essence of SNP support and the values underpinning them will be largely unchanged by a few sensational tabloid headlines in the longer term. For comparison, I note that Boris Johnson’s many breaches of the law did not attract police tents in his garden and officers dressed in fancy dress Hazmat suits.
Added to this, Brexit delivers a daily stream of bad news, both in the short, medium and long term. Robert Peston reported that 86% of young people wish to rejoin the EU. In this context, Starmer’s position on Brexit is ultimately untenable. I reported on Labour’s position on Brexit in the previous article “Hard Labour“. If Labour’s results are not good enough to win a General Election outright, a hung parliament still seems a likely outcome of the current optimism about the local elections.