Saturday, 6 May 2017
After the local government elections ....
In England, the National Conservatives have taken control of local government in several parts of what were once “Labour Party heartlands”. You might say, They are welcome to them. After all, what can the NCs deliver that Labour can't?
The NCs are being rewarded in those Heartlands for the fact that they triggered Article 50 to take the UK out of the European Union. They have also benefited from the perceived disintegration of the Labour Party as a serious opposition force. But now comes the difficult bit: What can these new NC-dominated local governments offer?
They can’t ride on rising standards of living since those are off the agenda, thanks to Brexit. Output is going to fall, prices are going to go up, taxes likewise. So they will be serving populations in ever greater need of support of one kind or another. Younger people will be looking for jobs, housing and food banks and older ones looking for health and social care. But local authorities will not be in a position to help. Their budgets will not increase and nor will their powers. They can’t by themselves do very much to get rid of the Romanians or the Remoaners: that is in the hands of the national government.
In all likelihood, the NC councils and mayors will be driven to flag-waving of one kind or another: the Union Jack everywhere, lots of prayers before council meetings, crackdowns on things ( rough sleepers, street drinking) which irritate but don’t cost much to crack down on (at least, for long enough to get a headline).
The expectations of voters in the Labour heartlands aren’t very high and are probably falling. Whether they will fall fast enough to keep pace with the National Conservatives’ likely inability to deliver any kind of regeneration is another question. In fairness, one should add that local government in the UK has for a long time been a weak and ineffectual thing. That has been central government policy - and I don't see that changing very much under the authoritarian regime of our Tsaritsa Theresa.