The latest by election result from Sleaford, triggered when the previous MP quit citing “irreconcilable policy differences” with the government over brexit, is a conservative hold. Given that this was a safe Tory seat, this is hardly a surprise. The lib dems saw an increase in their share of the vote, while labour’s vote collapsed, with them dropping into 4th place behind UKIP.
While the lid dem’s did see an increase in their voter share, it was perhaps a bit unrealistic to expect them to take the seat or present any significant challenge. This was again a safe Tory seat in the heart of pro-brexit country. But the fact they showed any sort of increase in support (even on a reduced turnout) does show that their tactic is working. However it also shows how difficult it will be to put together any sort of convincing anti-brexit alliance come next election. Such is the nature of the UK’s unfair voting system. It may take a number of election cycles before they are in a position to push for a 2nd referendum.
This hints at the fact that opposition to brexit must play the long game. Focus for the mean time on slowing down the process and holding the Tories feet to the fire to make sure they do it properly (and not just use it as an opportunity to fulfil their various ideological fantasies). Then, given time, once it because obvious that brexit was a bum deal and to be blunt, wait until all the old foggies who voted brexit have died off. Then another referendum is held and the UK rejoins.
So any Tory thinking that you’ve killed off the Europe question, think again. Already the EU is considering offering some sort of citizenship of the EU to UK citizens on a voluntary basis. This threatens to create a large block of pro-EU voters within the UK who will gradually steer the country back towards Europe as the baby boomers die off.
However, and this is starting to sound like a stuck record, the real loser was labour (again!). Of those who cast a ballot for them in 2015, only 1/3 showed up to vote for labour this time. You would think that Corbyn’s pro-brexit stance would win some votes at least. Again this constituency voted heavily for brexit, surely he’d do better here than in the last one? But no, instead it drove labour into fourth place behind UKIP.
Why? Because as I’ve been warning for months, the people who voted brexit are not labour supporters, they were generally UKIPer’s and Tories. There is nothing Corbyn can say to convince them to vote labour. He could adopt the most insane monty pythonesque UKIP policies (e.g. put a catapult at Dover to fire the Polish home) and it still won’t make any difference (Daily Mail headline would be “Corbyn plans to give Polish a free taxpayer funded fun ride”).
The failure of labour to provide any meaningful opposition to the Tories is driving voters towards the lib dems (if they voted remain) or UKIP (if they voted leave). So his stance is a perfectly sensible strategy…..if you happen to be a Tory!