The biggest winners from last night are the Liberal Democrats who have (so far) won 260 seats – their best overall performance since 2003 and the highest number of gains since 1995. And this matters because the rationale of Change UK (the latest name for the Chuka Ununna-Anna Soubry group of breakaway MPs) is that the Lib Dems are bust, useless as a vehicle for centrist Remainers. This may have seemed true in the 2017 general election, but does not seem to be true now. They have taken Chelmsford, Cotswold, Winchester and North Norfolk – amongst others.
Meanwhile, ChUK is a disgraceful shambles – unable to agree on a logo or a name, unable to equip would-be candidates with basic material to fight the European Parliament elections. The LibDems, by contrast, have a local network and an apparatus capable of winning seats and taking councils. The party pay be decayed and shrunken, but it’s vastly more impressive than the ChUKas.
To be sure, much of the Lib Dem revival will be due to local factors. Unlike ChUK they have local reputations to draw from. This helped them take control of Bath and North East Somerset – notorious as one of the worst-run councils in the country. And there are some border signs of life: winning a prosperous Remain seat like Winchester is just the sign of revival that the Lib Dems need. Jo Swinson, battle-hardened from confronting the SNP, will soon be their leader. The rationale for ChUK to merge with the LibDems has just become a bit stronger.