3 reasons local elections matter in fight against Brexit

by Luke Lythgoe | 01.05.2019

Local election campaigns should rightly focus on local issues. And yet campaigners are struggling to move the conversation – on doorsteps from Norfolk to Bolton – away from Brexit. It is therefore reasonable to see these elections as another small stepping stone towards a People’s Vote – foreshadowing the much more important European elections on May 23.

This year’s locals won’t provide a picture for the whole country. There are no votes in London, Scotland or Wales, for example. But 248 councils in England and Northern Ireland will be electing new councillors, with 8,425 seats up for grabs and about 25,000 people standing. Here’s why that’s important.

A reminder: register to vote

Many people might realise in the course of these elections that they are not registered to vote where they live – particularly those who have changed address recently, such as students.

They’ve missed the boat for this vote, but there is still time to make sure you’re registered for the May 23 European elections. You must register online before next Tuesday May 7. EU citizens from other countries living in the UK can vote too, but their registration process is more complicated and need to register before Friday – you can read more about that here.

Gains for pro-European parties

Big wins tomorrow would put the wind in the sails of pro-EU parties ahead of the EU elections. Neither Change UK nor Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party are standing in the locals, and turnout is expected to be much lower, so the voting patterns won’t give much away. But there are certainly gains to be made at the expense of the Conservatives, who reports suggest could lose around 800 council seats nationwide.

The Lib Dems especially are poised for a comeback in several pro-European cities. Councils tipped to switch to the Lib Dems from the embattled Conservative party include St Albans (where 30 Tories currently hold seats versus 18 Lib Dems) and Winchester (23 Tory councillors versus 22 Lib Dems). An even more impressive Tory reversal would be in Bath and North East Somerset – Jacob Rees-Mogg’s local patch. That would need a big Tory collapse: the Lib Dems currently hold just 15 seats compared to the Conservatives’ 37.

Brexit cost to cash-strapped councils

Whatever parties are promising on the doorstep at this election, the question must always be: how will you pay for that if we leave the EU? Councils are cash-strapped already, and Brexit threatens to make things worse.

Brexit uncertainty is huge for local economies. Will EU funding be replicated by Westminster if we leave? Will UK cities be as attractive to investors if we end up outside the EU’s single market, or will they take their money elsewhere? What will happen to the business rates local councils depend upon as Brexit uncertainty sends smaller businesses to the wall and drives international firms abroad? How will the new demands of Brexit be built into council budgets? The government’s own analysis shows that any form of Brexit will leave the UK poorer than if we’d stayed in the EU.

While these local elections should be fought on local issues, for many Brexit is already a local issue. These elections, and the EU elections later this month, are a chance for people to show how they feel. But more democracy will be needed: ultimately, this Brexit mess must be properly put back to the people.

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Published and promoted by Hugo Dixon on behalf of Referendum Facts Ltd., Millbank Tower, 21-24 Millbank, London SW1P 4QP

Edited by Jenny Sterne

2 Responses to “3 reasons local elections matter in fight against Brexit”

  • I would LOVE to vote but am disenfranchised because I served my country in a diplomatic post and I live part of the year in France so my disabled wife could have a warm climate. The promise to rectify this situation was in the last Tory manifesto ….but appeared last March as a Private Member’s bill and was talked out by (Tory) Philip Davies MP. I contacted him but he indicated he’d been put up to it by the Party and, hey ho, no more time wold be allocated. So taxation without representation and Governmental control of the electoral process…..remind you of a historical precedent? My local MP made weak efforts to do anything (she’s on the payroll) and I had a response from the Cabinet Office that “they had no plans to change legislation”. Despite several letters to Jeremy Corbyn (“I have had a letter from Andrew in Guildford”) I never had a response and HE is supposed to support democracy. Welcome to UK 2020, folks!!

  • The local election results have sent a clear message – BOLLOCKS TO brexit! Corbyn, you plonker, not only do you keep missing open goals but now you’ve scored a spectacular own goal! Go, and take Lavery, Milne, McClusky and the other Stalinists with you.