After a bad night for both the main parties at the polls, do we know any more than we did yesterday?
Voters up and down the country delivered a rebuke to both main parties. Though counts are still underway at the time of writing, it is clear that the Conservatives have lost hundreds of councillors, as well as control of many local authorities. Labour has also lost councillors and councils. Unfortunately, it isn’t wholly clear what message the electorate was sending.
Councillors will want to focus on rubbish collection and other local issues – fat chance. Pundits and politicians will be keen to suggest the parties are being punished for their approaches to Brexit, and the party leaderships will certainly come under renewed pressure as a result.
In or out?
Conservative activists, and many MPs, will say that the Prime Minister has failed to deliver Brexit in a timely fashion. Labour’s constructive ambiguity means that some will interpret the results as indicating the party should back Brexit, while others will believe it a clear sign that they ought to embrace a second referendum, or even oppose Brexit outright.
Whatever your preferred interpretation, voters are not impressed with what they have seen from Westminster lately.
This is only the second time in recent memory that both major parties have had a net loss at local elections – the first was 2016.
Return of the protest vote?
The Liberal Democrats and Greens have both done very well. After years of suffering from a Coalition hangover, this may be a sign that the Lib Dems could once again capture the votes of people who want to give the bigger parties a kick.
Independents and smaller parties have performed strongly as well, underlining the idea that voters were looking for any way to show their dissatisfaction with the big two, and are disenchanted with party politics. The European elections later this month may reinforce this, with the newly formed Brexit Party and Change UK both on the ballot.
Council elections are of course not just a barometer for national politics, but matter in their own right. They determine who will run our town halls and make important decisions. This is particularly true for the property industry, since councils write planning policies and determine planning applications.
The unpredictable, unstable state of politics at the moment underlines the importance of working closely with political stakeholders and the communities that they represent. Electoral pressures and fortunes are constantly shifting, and only by working to understand them at a local level can we find the best path.
At Redwood, we look beyond the surface and take the time to understand what drives decisions both locally and nationally, so that we can help developers build a constructive relationship with the communities where they need to work. The political turmoil only strengthens the need for that sort of understanding as we continue to navigate the choppy waters.