As the shambles that is Brexit stumbles on from one train crash to another, more and more evidence is emerging that the British people are starting to wake up to the fact that the promised Brexit unicorns don’t actually exist – and never will.
The latest evidence may come from the result of a local council election in Sunderland’s Pallion ward yesterday, where the Liberal Democrats took the seat from Labour with a very sizeable swing.
Pallion is on the South bank of the River Wear and used to be known for its shipbuilding but the last yard closed in 1988. There’s still one yard which carries out ship repairs, but that’s all. Nowadays the Pallion’s a mixture of industrial estates and residential, bounded by a road ironically named European Way. It’s known as a very deprived ward with high unemployment. You can learn more about the ward from the ‘Britain Elects’ website.
Of course nowaday’s Sunderland’s known for its Nissan car plant rather than shipbuilding.
In the Brexit referendum Sunderland voted to leave the EU by 61% to 39% remain. UKIP had a strong presence in the area, even if they had no Councillors. In the 2014 local elections UKIP made their first appearance, putting up candidates in almost every ward. The election results left them in 2nd place in the vote after the Labour party – including in Pallion. UKIP played on Sunderland’s shipbuilding past, pretending that they could somehow recreate those days.
UKIP also came second in 2015 and 2016. But that was then. This is now…
The fact that the ‘will of the people’ was swinging against Brexit was picked up by the local paper as long ago as December 2016 when they ran a poll that demonstrated people had changed their minds (link). Of course, newspaper polls are notorious for their inaccuracy, most are little better than clickbait. But that’s what makes the Pallion ward vote so interesting as it’s a genuine expression of the democratic vote. Pallion had the same Labour member since 1997, so for the Lib-Dems to go from last in 2014 , leapfrogging UKIP to snatch the seat is amazing. That UKIP are a car-crash nowadays doesn’t account for the massive swing to the Lib-Dems, as Labour and the Tories have lost vote share too. Could a factor be Brexit? Why did both former UKIP and Tory voters switch to the Lib-Dems?
Is anyone in Conservative Central Office or Labour headquarters listening? Both parties are seemingly hell-bent on pursuing Brexit, whatever the cost, but they would be foolish in the extreme to ignore results like this. This is the Brexit heartlands remember, so where’s their support gone? To the one party that’s made it absolutely clear it opposes Brexit!
I wonder how many more results like this we’ll be seeing as the Brexit shambles continues and the consequences can no longer be ignored or denied?