Two prominent Conservative remainer councillors have told the party’s MPs that failure to finalise Brexit torpedoed their local election chances.
They spoke out as the Conservatives seemed set to lose hundreds of seats, as well as a number of councils. Although the party lost a string of councils to no overall control, including Peterborough City Council and Southend-on-Sea BC, it did gain control of Walsall MBC and North East Lincolnshire Council, which are both heavily leave-voting areas.
However, Labour also appears to have performed poorly in leave areas, losing councils including Hartlepool BC and Wirral MBC. In the middle of the night it appeared it had performed better in southern England and remain areas, gaining control of Trafford MBC.
Tim Warren (Con), who had been leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, lost his seat to the Liberal Democrats, who won resounding control of the council.
“I feel really sorry for my cabinet who have worked really hard – they have lost their seats through no fault of their own,” he said.
“I think people who were remainers blamed us; people who were leavers blamed us that we haven’t left [Europe].”
He added: “I’m no longer a councillor here so I can say what I like. I urge all MPs to grow up.”
Sean Anstee, Trafford’s Conservative group leader, who had been a remain supporter, urged his party to “think about what it does to speak to people in councils like Trafford”.
He continued: “There’s certainly a sense of frustration that we haven’t been able to get the Brexit deal over the line. That’s not just a problem with the Conservative party – it’s a problem with Parliament.”
Cllr Anstee told the BBC he wanted the political situation to “move on”, to give his party hope of offering the “good service that we did when we were the administration here in Trafford”.
However, Tudor Evans, the Labour leader who cemented his party’s control of Plymouth City Council, insisted: “This election is being fought on local issues, about the council.”
Speaking to the Plymouth Herald he expressed frustration that “most of the political discussion in this country is about Parliament and MPs, whereas councillors are in [local] government and in power every day don’t get a look in.”
It is the Liberal Democrats, Independents and smaller parties which have most to cheer so far.
David Francis was among those overturning the old order, winning a seat on South Tyneside Council, for the Green party.
He told the Newcastle Chronicle: “We’ve worked really hard for the local area and really presented a viable alternative to the Labour party which until now had 53 of 54 council seats and I’ve been elected with a massive majority.
“This is a really historic night for the Greens - we’ve never held a council seat anywhere in the north east.”