On Thursday, local elections took place across England and Northern Ireland. In England 161 councils were up for grabs, and many many more councillor positions. What was clear in the run-up to these elections, and the European Elections held on the same day, was that UKIP would cause an “earthquake” – a phrase used by UKIP leader Nigel Farage, which the media have since fallen in love with.
True, UKIP have made substantial inroads into traditional Tory heartlands, and have snatched a number of seats from Labour. However, they have so far failed to claim an actual council outright. After 159 of the 161 English council results were announced, Labour had won 82 councils, 41 for the Conservatives, and a measly 6 for the Liberal Democrats. UKIP got zilch.
Nevertheless, UKIP have increased their presence in councils by 161 councillors; a very notable number.
What is striking from the results is just how horrendously the Tories and LibDems have done in these elections; they have lost They have lost 11 and 2 councils respectively, along with 231 and 307 councillors. At the same time, Labour have jumped by 6 and 338 in the same categories. What an appalling result for the two parties who are meant to be in government.
The reaction from the Conservatives was pretty pathetic. The best, I felt, was Education Secretary Michael Gove’s response on BBC Breakfast to the question on whether a UKIP-Tory coalition would be possible.
“I don’t think so, no”, was his rather smug reply. However, he too said roughly the same thing that a number of Conservatives are saying: they understand why people would vote UKIP, and they understand that people are frustrated by the current issues causing people to vote UKIP. As the Prime Minister himself tweeted in a two-part message to voters:
“1/2 There was a clear message from last night’s elections: people want us to deliver more on issues that frustrate them and frustrate me…2/2 The economy is improving, we are creating jobs. but we will work flat out to deliver more on the economy, immigration and welfare.”
Nevertheless, I think the problem for the Con-Dem government is that it is too little, too late. Mr. Cameron hasn’t got just 140 characters to try and fit his message in, rather 347 days before May 7th 2015 – the date of the General Election. In fact, if my YouGov survey question the other day was anything to go by, some may argue that he should resign if he loses substantially in the European Elections.
But the rhetoric mentioned by @David_Cameron and Michael Gove that “it is the Conservative government that is addressing those issues”, makes out that we are all delusional, and we have been misled by the nasty Mr. Farage, with his toothy grin and pints of beer, away from the good and true Conservative Party.
The other thing I found most striking about today’s post-election coverage, however, was the of who was on TV and how they were being shown. BBC Breakfast showed a clip of Ed Miliband apparently laughing as he strolled down a street; Farage climbing out of a car, grinning as ever; Clegg sitting down for a chat with some elderly voters; Osborne…Osborne? Where was David Cameron?
Osborne was standing in what I guessed to be Costa – judging by the look of the soup cups behind him – with a slightly nauseated expression, as if he was thinking, “Ah, common people…yes, hello, yes. Oh, that is nice…David, you owe me on this one!”
Now we await the results of the European Elections, which are to be announced tonight. Time to see if all the UKIP hysteria was just a flat pint.