Published On: Fri, May 3rd, 2019

Local elections: UK Government, frit by low turnout, about to make another big mistake?

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The Government – meaning Westminster politicians, their brethren at local level, and corporate-media – can only recognise the impact of low turnout at yesterday’s local elections in the guise of “voter disillusionment with Brexit”, so that there is an election-fallout phenomenon that it can discuss in safety without having to explain exactly why it exists. Moreover, a talking point about a Lib Dem resurgence has also been produced so that people can associate cause of this “disillusionment” with a swing to that party. This then enables a talking point whereby unhappiness with something vaguely to do with Brexit can be made to equate more exactly with unhappiness about Britain leaving the EU.

On the other hand, the Tories and Labour are also talking about local election results being representative of a desire in the voter for both parties to reach that compromise which featured in the previous FBEL: article, European elections or that Labour-Tory compromise – or both? The relentess promotion of Farage, whichever. This talking point is a replacement for one that had been primed before any of the results had come in to show a disappointing night for Corbyn’s party also.

You see, dear reader, Tory failure on its own, with Labour coming in to fill the void, was meant to represent a demand for Theresa May to accept Labour conditions for an Article 50 treaty. However, the only tide that Labour could be associated with wasn’t the intended one of a wave come crashing in to shape Brexit, but only merely the dirty rotting mark that demonstrated a retreat of support. It is a testimony to the high chutzpah of Tory and Labour politicians, when the message of the local elections is so clearly at a variance to how they would have it, that they are maintaining a variation of their redundant talking point. The following gives a flavour, firstly, from a live coverage facility at the Independent, and secondly from the same sort of thing at the Guardian:

Corbyn says Brexit deal between Labour and Tories ‘has to be done’ in wake of poll hammering

May says results show voters want main parties to ‘deliver Brexit’

Of course, it is all rubbish. Clearly, people did not vote Tory or Labour because Brexit has not been delivered by now as it should have been; let us hazard to be more precise: because there was no no-deal Brexit on 29th March. Disillusionment has been generated by the deceitful and villainous Westminster’s handling of the very clear instruction given to it in the referendum held in 2016. There is no other way to spin this. As for the Liberal Democrats, a standing stone becomes taller when the tree that usually towers over it and shades it is chopped down. Frankly, reports of that party’s springing to life are greatly exaggerated. Ditto a desire for the country to Remain. All signs point to the unmentionable truth about the local elections: the English expressed their intense displeasure and contempt of UK Government by not voting.

At the time of writing, the author cannot find a figure for combined national turnout. Moreover, national corporate-media quite pointedly refuses to publish this information even in its otherwise detailed results coverage. To find the numbers, one has to go to local news websites, or better still, to dig down in a council’s webpage. Naturally, this entails a lot of work – which the reader should not expect the one-man band at FBEL to have processed to any remotely satisfactorily level (if indeed he ever will). However, casual searches can bring up headlines like this†:

Brexit blamed for lowest voter turnout in Leeds for years

The article that follows commences with this:

Parties across the political spectrum blamed the confusion surrounding Brexit negotiations at Westminster for a poor voter turnout in the Leeds City Council local election.

Just 31 per cent of people across Leeds went to the polls on Thursday, May 2 – that’s less than one in three residents.

It’s the lowest turnout for a number of years, with several councillors and MPs telling LeedsLive that Brexit played a big part in the incredibly poor showing. Others also blamed the weather as the city was hit by heavy downpours throughout the day.

The weather was also partially blamed for the similarly low turnout at the Newport West by-election (an FBEL article on this to be found here). It’s like there has never been a high turnout election that didn’t coincide with a heat wave.

The reader will no doubt be interested to discover that Leeds’ 31% was only slightly lower than the turnout for Chelmsford, which was where the Lib Dems’ Vince Cable specifically chose to visit in order to gloat:

Sir Vince Cable, in Chelmsford Essex, where his party took control of the council, said it had been a “brilliant” result for his party and that “every vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote for stopping Brexit”.

Chelmsford was the scene of a catastrophe for the Tories. All 57 seats were being contested, and the Lib Dems gained 26, with the Tories losing 31. Indeed, the BBC was on hand to capture the moment when the Chelmsford Tory MP, Vicky Ford, “became visibly upset as the Tories lost a comfortable majority at Chelmsford City Council”.

Now before we proceed, it must be understood that Vicky Ford is a pro-EU, Remain-supporting ex-MEP who waltzed quite easily into her seat at the 2017 General Election – she features in the FBEL article: The Tory Fake Brexit Candidates; Part One. Knowing this information helps us suppose that the Lib Dems had their good fortune yesterday because Brexit-supporting Tories abandoned their party. It figures like this: the seat is extraordinarily safe. Ford won with 53.7% of the vote in 2017, when the turnout was 70.2% of an electorate of 56,860. Ford, then, attracted 30,525 votes. The Lib Dems came in third that year, with 12.2% of the vote – representing 6,916 voters.

According to the author’s calculations, in 2019, the overall average turnout for the 24 wards of Chelmsford Council was 33.47%. Now, the Chelmsford parliamentary constituency is made up of 14 wards that constitute only a portion of the council’s catchment area, with the rest residing in Saffron Walden, and Maldon – but it is from these Chelmsford wards alone where the council seats for the Lib Dems were generated. Turnout in those Lib Dem electing wards amounted to an average of 34.95% – so we can estimate that 19,872 people took part in the elections from these wards. If all of these people had voted for the Lib Dems, the number would still amount to less than those who did not vote Tory in 2017. Of course, not everyone voted Lib Dem – not in the city, and not across the wider council; indeed, the party won its seats in just over half of the wards: 13 of them, to be precise. That means that the stunning Lib Dem come-back, Tory-slaying feat in Chelmsford was achieved by a fraction of the 33.47% turnout, and therefore because a lot of other people didn’t bother to go out to vote. We don’t need to calculate the exact numbers to know that the Lib Dem result in Chelmsford is nationally meaningless.

To find a discussion on the very serious problem of exploitation of such-like meaningless local election results for the purpose of pushing national agenda, and also what to do about it (involving starting local parties – or, rather, organisations – to defend local people from the State), see the FBEL article, Local elections explained: a clique elects its own, the public think about ramifications for Westminster. In the meantime, the reader is referred back to the immediately previous FBEL article where it was suggested that a clue to whether or not the UK Government would hold EU elections, or perhaps rather, instead, arrange a Tory-Labour Brexit compromise to avoid them, may be discoverable in the outcome of the local elections. It was suggested that low turnout, and fear of low turnout at elections for the European parliament, would lead to some risk taking that would further alienate people from Labour and the Tories. This risk taking, of course, would come in the form of a worse-than-could-be-previously-tolerated Article 50 treaty. Lo and behold, both the Tories and Labour are now spinning the local election results towards this end. Arguably, that a good deal of people did not participate in yesterday’s election has forced Government further along an avenue down which it would rather not venture – a road that can only lead to more trouble and strife, and ultimately more complete rejection.

It’s like the Egyptians killing their own firstborns because they detest Moses and won’t do as he commands them. Obviously, the UK Government has already lost.

 

† Update, 4/5/19: Another example, from HullLive (and thanks to the commenter for providing a report from Manchester, below):

The people of Hull stayed away from the polling stations with a Brexit backlash blamed for voter apathy.

There was a fear turnout figures could dip below the dreaded 10 per cent mark in some wards.

While that never materialised, areas like Marfleet in East Hull only managed a 13 per cent turnout and in total the turnout across Hull stood at 22.2 per cent.

This number was lower than last year’s turnout, which saw 25 per cent of the electorate cast their votes.

Traditional voter apathy, a backlash over the Brexit stalemate and yesterday’s poor weather were all contributing factors.

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  1. Been checking the local gov websites for turnout details and it seems that nowhere I looked had more than 50%, and apart from the odd explosion of apathy like Ulverston & Furness, the average for the Orange State of Cumbria & Blue State of Fylde, was in the region of 40%.
    I recall Manchurian Candidate Dubya Bush’s first score of 15% on a turnout of 30%, but it was enough to enable the establishment to wage war on the world.
    Thankyou for a well thought out article. Democracy is quite dead, isn’t it, but the masses seem apathetic about that as well.

  2. MSM still hiding the turnout, but this quote from Labour in the Manchester Evening News site sums it up.

    “”The winner is the lack of turnout. In our good seats there was over 30 pc turnout, but then you’re also down to 20, so apathy has actually won.