Reflecting on local council elections

Congratulations to the councillors elected in last Thursday’s local elections.  I am very sorry, however, that some dedicated Conservative councillors and candidates in West Sussex did not win their seats.

While many of us tried to point out that these were local elections, inevitably national issues - and particularly Brexit - affected the results.

It’s often the case that the national mood creates a tide which sees council seats won and lost, but that’s no consolation to some of our most hard-working councillors who lost out through no fault of their own.

It seems that the two major parties, Conservatives and Labour, paid the price for the failure to deliver Brexit.  

As some of their supporters protested or stayed at home, the beneficiaries were third parties such as the Liberal Democrats and Greens, paradoxically those opposed to Brexit.

Many are quick to blame the Prime Minister, and of course party leaders must take responsibility.  But the truth is that her deal was rejected three times by MPs.  Labour cynically opposed it because doing so would cause trouble for the Government.  

Meanwhile just 34 - one in ten - Conservative MPs persistently opposed the deal, most because it wasn’t hardline enough for them.  Their ideological intransigence succeeded in stopping Brexit, with all the consequences.

Had that Withdrawal Agreement been passed, Britain would have left the EU by now, and I think we would have seen very different local election results.

It’s no use saying that the Prime Minister should just have taken Britain out without a deal regardless, since - quite apart from the economic implications - the reality is that the House of Commons repeatedly rejected that option, too.

And calling for the Prime Minister to resign immediately similarly misses the point.  She has already that said she will step down early, and her departure is expected this year.   

But unless there is an election, changing the Prime Minister will not alter the parliamentary arithmetic.  There will be no majority for “no deal”, whoever is in charge.  Only if MPs agree a deal will Britain leave the EU.

I am dismayed that the actions of a few have prevented the Conservative Party from delivering on the referendum result as we promised, and the impasse is damaging to the country.

It is time for compromise and pragmatism to prevail, so that the referendum decision can be honoured, and Britain can move on. 

If you would like to get in touch with me, please e-mail me at nick@nickherbert.com.