Local elections in England last week reflected a deep crisis of mainstream politics. There was a shift away from the two biggest parties, while smaller groups and independents made significant gains.
The Tories, unsurprisingly, did terribly. After months of intense crisis and splits over Brexit, they lost over 1,300 seats.
But Labour, which should gain out of the Tory chaos, lost 82. And the Lib Dems, who were part of a nasty coalition government with the Tories, gained over 700 seats.
The Greens won 194 more councillors, while the number of independents rose by 612.
One analysis estimated that if voting patterns were replicated across Britain, both the Tories and Labour would get 28 percent.
It’s only the second time that this kind of calculation has put both parties below 30 percent.
Most commentators blamed Brexit. But the deadlock over Brexit is just one symptom of a rotten system where many ordinary people feel, rightly, that no one speaks for them.
The election of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn led to a surge in party membership, as many saw him as different to other politicians.
But months of attacks on Corbyn from Labour right wingers, and his concessions to them, have undermined him.
Labour’s dithering over Brexit and whether to back a second referendum hasn’t helped. Its losses last week were heaviest in areas that voted Leave.
The political system is failing the vast majority of people and opening the door to dangerous reaction
And, as Corbyn makes angry speeches about the impact of Tory austerity, Labour councils continue to make cuts.
It’s little wonder that many people, feeling that they can’t trust mainstream politicians, look around for an alternative—and some look towards “independents”.
But the growth in independent councillors reflects a mix of ideas.
Some appear to be inspired by a desire to genuinely improve the lives of people in their areas. Others pander to reactionary themes.
MPs’ attempts to undermine Brexit, or stop it altogether, feeds a sense that politicians routinely ignore the wishes of ordinary people.
There is a huge danger that racists such as Nigel Farage will capitalise on this by posing as the defenders of “democracy”.
A big vote for the Brexit Party, Ukip and Tommy Robinson in the European elections will make every racist more confident.
The local elections underlined how the political system is failing the vast majority of people and opening the door to dangerous reaction.
Labour should be fighting much more strongly against the Tories and for working class people against the bosses.
But we need to focus on struggle outside parliament and the council chambers to get the real change we need.