The local elections might have seen similar patterns and turnouts as previous rounds, but the 2022 elections were marked by unprecedented local and international contexts which had a direct and indirect impact on voters’ choices.
Many observers usually dismiss the local elections as hives for protest votes or no shows, which have little to no real impact on the map of political alliances across the country let alone future parliamentary elections. The customary 35-38% turnout might have been used to provide additional evidence for that conviction.
However, what must be noted is that the 2022 elections were held under unprecedented conditions, locally and internationally, which is likely to impact the lives of the vast majority of Britons for years to come.
The Russia-Ukraine war, initially expected to last no more than a few days, now well and truly in its third month and with the Prime Minister and his Foreign Secretary issuing warnings that it may last for years, has already started to impact economic conditions across the world, and especially nations which rely on Russian energy supplies, wheat and grain from Ukraine and have become accustomed to a consumerist lifestyle that is likely to be significantly affected for a considerable amount of time.
Locally, party-gate and the various verdicts on how well or otherwise the government dealt with the Covid-19 outbreak cast a long shadow on elections, essentially related to local day to day services, but which performances of political parties loomed large in the minds, discussions and decisions of voters.
With that in mind, it stands true that the results should not be examined solely through the perspective of results, figures and percentages, but rather trends which are valid reflections of a public mood that will not only carry to the next general elections but will probably signify real changes throughout Britain and British society.
— BBC Election (@bbcelection) May 6, 2022
The most prominent of those is undoubtedly the Sinn Fein victory in Northern Ireland, which positions them in an influential position to select the next First Minister as well as impacting the implementation of the Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol. Whilst no one is suggesting that Northern Ireland will declare its independence from the Union soon, it wouldn’t be a too far stretch to contemplate Northern Ireland separating before Scotland, which has been on the cards for over a decade, with a second referendum being vigorously campaigned for. Needless to say that such a prospect will have seismic effects on the country and beyond.
Otherwise, apart from the Conservatives being undoubtedly the biggest loser, no one can claim to be an outright winner. Labour lost almost as much as it won, and it failed to cross the threshold it achieved under Corbyn in 2018. One could claim that if anything emerged from the near-chaotic outcome of the elections, which would point to the general thinking of the nation, it is that none of the parties has deserved or won the public’s trust. Yes, the Lib Dems gained a significant percentage, but nothing close to a resurgence that will see them returning to being the third party in Britain.
The impact of this lack of trust, created by a combination of a poor pool of politicians and leaders, the absence of a moral code to guide politics, business and finance and community, as well as a media that is obsessed with the mundane and the sensational and presumes the public so intellectually lacking that it deserves no better, is a dangerous cocktail that can lead to devastating outcomes. Add the exceptional conditions and predominant contexts currently in place to the mix, and all of a sudden these local elections take on an entirely different shade of significance.