Both the Conservatives and Labour parties get yet another good kicking at the elections to the European Parliament, the last ones that the UK will participate in. The Brexit party, led by the controversial but charismatic Nigel Farage, were clear winners, winning a staggering 31 per cent of the popular vote and gaining 29 seats, way ahead of the resurgent Liberal Democrats who finished second on 20 per cent, winning 16 seats.
The Labour party came a limp third with just 14 per cent, having won just 10 seats, just ahead of the Greens who finished on 12 per cent and won seven seats. The Scottish National Party won three seats on 3 per cent, whilst Plaid Cymru held onto one seat an had just over one per cent. The Conservatives had a terrible night, finishing fifth overall on 9 per cent and winning only four seats. Neither Change UK nor United Kingdom Independence party got many votes or seats.
The election result couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Conservatives, who were reluctant to campaign only after their repeatedly failed to get a brexit deal passed in parliament. Theresa May’s resignation as Prime Minister has made things worse. In the next few weeks the party will have to choose her successor… and according to commentators, the former Mayor of London and newspaper columnist Boris Johnson is the favourite. Whoever wins the leadership will have to get the majority of MPs onside to pass the brexit deal with the European Union before the last cutoff date- October 31, as there will be no more extensions.
Nigel Farage got what he wanted- the support… and the votes. The Brexit party took votes from both Conservatives and Labour. Just as the EU thought they had seen the back of him, back he comes again. He won simply because he was able to convince people fed up with the way that our departure was handled… and the fact that the main parties had repeatedly failed to listen to their concerns, particularly on issues like jobs and immigration. Their only policy may have been to leave the EU come what may, but they are certainly not one-trick ponies.
Both the Liberal Democrats and the Greens have been resurgent, simply because both parties have committed fighting to keep Britain in the EU. They took votes from Labour and increased their vote share in the process. The SNP and Plaid Cymru also took votes from Labour, which could restart popular calls for independence in both countries. Add on that of Change UK, and there is a high remainer vote. But the vote is split, and their failure to co-operate electorally means that the brexit parties were able to claim the moral high ground.
The elections were bad for the Conservatives, but they were even worse for the Labour party. They are still heavily split, not just between remain and leave voters, but also between those who support party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has the majority support of party members, and the parliamentary party MPs who are opposed to him. Their two-faced approach to brexit, repeatedly quoting a policy they adopted at last year’s party conference, meant that voters didn’t know what they stood for, and as a result, they lost votes heavily from both remainers and leavers. In Wales, Labour finished third. In Scotland, they finished fifth as the SNP dominated, failing to learn the lessons from their independence referendum debacle. They have repeatedly failed to land any serious blows on arguably the worst Conservative government in living memory. As I mentioned earlier, Labour is facing a very existential crisis, and would find it very difficult to drum up some real support that they desperately need in order to win a future general election.
The election results show that the country remains heavily divided, and neither side of the debate want to make any compromises. That would be dangerous, but unless our MPs try to reach out to each other to reach a deal that the majority of people would support, then the UK will certainly crash out of the EU on October 31st empty-handed. That would be real disaster.