Have the voters finally noticed that both the Tories and Labour are terrible?
The Cotswolds went yellow. St Albans went grey. Ashfield went a kind of darkish mauve. What does it all mean? It means the voters have absolutely had enough.
Early tuners-in to the BBC’s local election night coverage might have caught the Newsnight special investigation into the Brumadinho dam disaster in Brazil, in which an entirely manmade toxic swamp collapsed, setting off a deadly landslide that destroyed everyone and everything in its path.
And so, to the latest on Brexit. There were ups, there were downs. There were colourful graphics. There was, inevitably, Barry Gardiner, and though we must stress it’s early days, it does appear that the voters have clocked on to the fact that the Conservative Party, and their traditional opposition, the Labour Party, are both spectacularly terrible.
The Cotswolds went yellow. St Albans went grey. Ashfield went a kind of darkish mauve. What does it all mean? It means the voters have absolutely had enough. Had enough of Brexit, had enough of no Brexit. Had enough of Theresa May. Had enough of Jeremy Corbyn. Tired of living, scared of dying, but ol’ man river... you get the idea.
“No Overall Control” had the best night. Up and down the country, voters decided to replicate the misery of Westminster in their local town hall. Mini-parliaments were hung all over the place. In Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, led by a chap called Jason Zadrozny, a slate of independent candidates took the council.
And these are actual independents, not to be confused with The Independent Group, who are not not to be confused with Change UK, who are one and the same.
More to the point, the Lib Dem Fightback really did start here. At about 5am, there was actual footage, on the actual news, of Liberal Democrats celebrating. The Cotswolds went Lib Dem. Whoever would have thought it?
Local election results are, of course, always a crucial indicator of what might happen in the event of an imminent general election. Just look at, say, May 2017, when a strong night for the Conservatives made the predicted landslide victory Theresa May would go on to win just a month later all but a certainty.
That, you may recall, is not quite what happened, and perhaps, credit where it’s due. Because, as the red column and the blue column on the BBC’s bar chart of doom spent the small hours of Friday morning in a slow motion race to the bottom, there is a small case to be made for Theresa May the strategic genius.
She is going down, that’s beyond doubt, but she does appear to be doing a passable job of taking Jeremy Corbyn down with her. Her spectacular failure at the ballot box two years ago, and thus her inevitably spectacular failure to deliver Brexit, has at least allowed her to project the blame for her own towering failings on to others.
In Labour-loving-but-Brexit-loving Stoke, Labour took a hammering. Ruth Smeeth, one of the town’s two MPs, turned up to make clear Labour was being punished for not being clear. Not an hour earlier, the shadow trade secretary Barry Gardiner had explained that Labour is indeed “speaking with two voices” on Brexit.
“Many people in our party wanted to Remain in the first place,” he said, “and actually some of them would still like to Remain, and their voice has also been heard. And if a party is seen to be speaking with two voices, it’s very difficult to communicate the policy.” Indeed it is, Barry, and no one could possibly have demonstrated it better.
Luckily for him, Labour voters were busy doing the same. They were speaking Lib Dem, they were speaking Green, they were speaking Independent. One voice, a hundred hymn sheets. Perhaps Gareth Malone might get them all together to form a choir to sing outside Jeremy Corbyn’s window, if only to see if he’ll notice they’re there.
Predictably, various Tory Brexiteers appeared at various points, to blame Theresa May for the misery they have heaped on her and us. Bernard Jenkin dialled in to the BBC from Colchester, to blame Theresa May for the fact that his life’s dream has turned out to be everybody else’s nightmare. Priti Patel did the same.
A change of leader is necessary, these people think. And they’re probably right. They did have a different one, not that long ago. He even won a quite stunning majority victory at a general election. But they broke him, and they’ve broken his replacement too, so new things to break are urgently required.
And with such things, no doubt, come yet another general election. And so, we end, with the closing warning, delivered at 5.57am by the polling expert Sir John Curtice, who is as close as this country has to a political David Attenborough.
“There is a more than trivial probability that a general election would produce another hung parliament,” he said. “And whether it’s a Labour government or a Conservative government, it wouldn’t be any more capable of reaching a resolution on Brexit as this one.”
On we roll, then. No end in sight.