By George Williams |
You can relax now. The wait is finally over. The European election results are in. It was a contest as unexciting as it was complex, just under half the nation were persuaded to head to the polls, to vote on Britain’s 73-strong delegation to Eurovision’s younger sibling, the European Parliament. These were the elections that were never meant to happen, and they show that nothing is to be taken for granted in British politics.
Here in the South West, the Brexit Party topped the poll, winning three of the region’s six MEPs. Amongst them is the former Conservative politician Ann Widdecombe, who came under fire in 2018 for controversial comments which were dubbed “homophobic” by the LGBT+ community, and who was recently interviewed by the Anchor.
In second place came the Liberal Democrats, who won two MEPs. And lastly, Molly Scott Cato, the Green MEP who visited campus earlier in the year, was also re-elected. UKIP, Labour and the Conservatives, all of whom previously had an MEP in the region, lost all their representation.
… It was the worst election result for the Conservatives since 1832
Nationally, the Brexit party swamped the competition, winning 28 seats across the UK. Meanwhile the Conservatives and Labour faltered, earning just four and ten MEPs respectively. In fact, it was the worst election result for the Conservatives since 1832.
In a trend replicated across Europe, it was a great night for pro-European parties like the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, as well as for nationalist populist parties such as the Brexit Party.
In a buoyant mood, the Brexit Party spokesman declared:
“In the South West some areas returned a humbling 52% of the count to the Brexit Party. Under the Brexit lens our two-party cartel and the perverse, self-supporting system that perpetuates this state of affairs, has been found totally to be totally broken.”
In places such as Bristol, the Lib Dem’s share of the vote went up by as much as 280%
Voters in the South West, as elsewhere, rejected ‘Change UK – The Independent Group’, whose pro-European, pro-establishment message bizarrely failed to resonate with voters. However the Liberal Democrats, who ran on a similar platform, gained two new MEPs when previously it had none. In places such as Bristol, their share of the vote went up by as much as 280%.
The Liberal Democrat candidate David Chalmers, speaking exclusively to the Anchor, said of the results:
“We have secured the best ever European Election results in the party’s history, expecting to return 16 MEPs and take second place in the vote share. [It has been] a fantastic night for the Lib Dems and [puts us] one step nearer to putting an end to Brexit and for us to get on with the real issues facing our country.”
Reflecting on Molly Scott Cato’s re-election, the Green Party’s Tom Scott said:
“[the result] shows that our clear message – Yes to Europe and no to climate chaos – really resonated with voters here, and I think it also reflects the fact that Molly has been an outstanding MEP for our region. We’re absolutely delighted that she will be representing us again and very much hope that this will be for a full five years.”
Interestingly, across the South West, the new delegation of MEPs is slightly less Eurosceptic than its predecessor delegation. In 2014 four Eurosceptic MEPs were elected, and now there are three.
The MEPs themselves probably won’t have much to do, as Britain is due to leave the European Union by the 31st of October this year.
… The growth of Remain and Brexit parties puts the stability of British politics into question
The success of the Liberal Democrats and the Greens will be good news to their fellow Liberal and Green parties in Europe, who – due to significant increases in support across the continent – are now well placed to play Kingmaker in Brussels. The Choice of Commission President, and the European Budget will be contentious issues in which they may well wield some influence.
Most importantly, the growth of the Remain and Brexit Parties puts the stability of British politics into question. Labour’s strategy of straddling the two positions seems impossible, and the Conservative withdrawal agreement has been rejected. Though in total the arithmetic may not have significantly changed, these results point towards the difficult terrain that any party will have to pass if it wishes to decisively win the next general election and form a stable government.