Here’s the summarised results of the English cooncil elections, to save you reading through acres of coverage. Labour is screwed, the Tories are screwed, the Lib Dems are totally screwed, and UKIP’s screwing everyone.
Despite Ed Miliband’s glum face, which to be honest is hard to distinguish from his happy face, Labour actually won the cooncil elections – they gained the greatest number of seats and topped the poll in terms of the percentage of the total vote they picked up. But Labour even managed to turn that into a defeat.
The problem is they were starting from a very low baseline. Think of the belly of a snake, then dig downwards until you get to the special corner in the basement of Hell reserved for Tony Blair, that low. They’re the student who hadn’t even achieved an F in the exam they needed an A for to get into uni, so to prepare for the resit they had lots of late nights with cans of red bull, mammy and daddy flew in a very expensive strategy expert from the USA, they listened to lots of sermons from intellectuals of the party like St Dougie the Diminutive, they stared a lot at piles of very thick books on electoral tactics and formulating policy ideas in the hope that the knowledge might somehow get into their heads by sheer proximity alone, and they managed to improve so much that they scored a D minus.
Not close, and definitely no ministerial motor. It was made a lot worse when Ed had a series of car crash interviews. He dented a door panel when he revealed he didn’t know how much the weekly shopping cost and then he dented it again as he made unconvincing attempts to rescue the situation. A short while later he reversed over the local Labour party’s foot when he didn’t know the name of the Labour leader in Swindon council, which he was visiting at the time seeing as how it’s a key council Labour needed to win. That was bad enough, but then he went into forward gear and drove over a puppy when it became apparent that he didn’t realise that Swindon was in fact a Tory controlled council, this being sort of the reason why it was a key council Labour had to win. He was hoping to drive off and hope no one noticed, but Ed Balls got caught doing that too.
Labour should be doing much better at this stage in the electoral cycle, which is like a mountain bike only you’re more likely to fall off and batter yourself in the groin in ways which people will video on their mobile phones and send off to Harry Hill, where it will haunt and embarrass you for all eternity. Even more embarrassing is the fact they’ll send in the video clips even without the TV offer of 30 pieces of silver in return. In England’s local elections, Labour not only fell off the bike and battered itself in the groin, it also catapulted itself into a vat of manure.
We’re told that an official party inquest has already begun, which is a polite way of describing a bunch of politics geeks screaming ‘Fuck!’ at one another as they decide who to blame. But Labour’s real problem is as obvious to voters in England as it is to voters in Scotland and Wales. Throughout much of the 20th century, Labour was the workers’ party, and the Tories were the bosses’ party. Then Labour became the party of managing workers’ expectations, and the workers largely put up with that. But then Tony Blair and Gordon Brown happened, and Labour became the party of explaining to the workers why the bosses are right. But we already had the Tories as the Bastard Party, Labour became the only thing worse, the Two-Faced Bastard Party.
Meanwhile the Bastards themselves hardly covered themselves in glory. The Tories lost seats, but the party of government always loses seats in local and by-elections, so they’re not losing much sleep over it. They didn’t lose as many as they feared they might. In Scotland we hate having Iain Duncan Smith, George Osborne, and David Cameron telling us what to do, in England they have to put up with them and with Eric Pickles and Michael Gove as well. So the Tories could have done a whole lot worse. Which is a bit of a worry if your ideal result in the 2015 General Election is a repeat in England of what happened in Scotland in 1997.
The Lib Dems tanked, but didn’t tank quite as badly as some of us had hoped. If you’re Scottish tanking Lib Dems counts as a proxy version of having Danny Alexander strapped into one of those machines that pour evil looking goo over irritating teachers in children’s tv programmes, and we didn’t get quite the flotilla of supertankers of goo we might have liked. Certainly not a North Sea’s worth, which would have been poetic. The party did very poorly, but avoided a complete collapse.
Meanwhile UKIP gained a lot of ground, although not quite as much as they gained in the last round of English council elections. UKIP didn’t do well in London, because it’s full of outward looking non-provincial types who look down on narrow minded petty nationalism, so that’s something else Londoners have in common with Scottish independence supporters. Out in the shires and the north of England it was a different story. UKIP took votes from all the three other parties.
UKIP have proven their main point, which is that they’re an unpleasant fixture in UK politics, joining the three existing unpleasant fixtures. It’s not so much UKIP itself which represents the biggest danger, it’s the effect UKIP has on the other three parties. The centre ground of UK politics just shifted even further to the right, and further away from the aspirations of most in Scotland.
They have local elections every two years in England, it helps to spread the apathy more thinly. The turnout was a paltry 36%, the biggest winner was the None of the Above party. But None of the Above changes nothing, because it doesn’t force any of the above to make serious reforms. So you get the frustration of UKIP.
When Scotland next goes to the vote, we’ll be able to mark the YES box and make “None of the Above” mean something.