People’s choice

We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that when the voting populace is tired of its government, then said government will get a real roasting in the local elections.

And so it came to pass for the Conservatives last week.

It’s also usually true that when the electorate is fed-up with whatever the party in power has been doing, or not doing, that the local elections prove a massive fillip to Her Majesty’s Opposition, who step in and hoover up seats across the country (wherever the elections have been held). This gives the Leader of the Opposition opportunity aplenty to crow about how the Government’s time has come and that he or she will lead his or her party to victory in the next General Election.

Except this time, May 2019, seems to be the exception to that particular rule.

Not only did the Tories lose seats in droves – even in True-Blue Royal Tunbridge Wells, where no less an august figure than the Tory leader of the Council lost his seat and his party overall control – but Labour didn’t fare so hotly round the regions either. The real winners were the Lib Dems (remember them?), the Greens and Independent candidates.

Of course the papers are full of opinions about exactly why this should have come to pass. The more mainstream pro-Brexit titles are shouting about “will of the People” and that this proves the British people are fed up with the fact that Brexit hasn’t happened yet and that it is a clear message to Teresa May to get on with it and sort out our exit.

Pretty much the exact opposite of what the pro-Remain papers are saying: that this shows “the will of the people for a second referendum”, ie. one that they hope will return a Remain verdict this time around.

The local elections aren’t always an exact mirror of voters’ feelings about the wider Government of course. In a great many cases, it’s local politics for local people that determine the results (this was definitely what caused the upset in my local council) and it isn’t always repeated at any subsequent general elections.

However, nearly three years after the UK voted (by the smallest of margins, let’s not forget) to leave the European Union, I find myself in the bizarre position of having polling cards for this May’s European elections pinned on the fridge.

How is it possible that the elected representatives of the British people – all (presumably) educated, intelligent, sentient beings – have  failed so magnificently to deliver anything?

We are being seen as the basket-case of Europe and stuck somewhere between the proverbial rock and hard place. Fail to Leave and it makes mockery of the democratic process, sending the message out to younger generations that politics isn’t important because you can just change your mind if you don’t get the result you want. On the other hand, if Brexit goes through without being properly sorted, those younger generations will feel they and their futures have been sold down the river.

It may be an aphorism that you can’t please all of the people, all of the time, but we are well on our way to pleasing no-one, at any time at all. Ever.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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