A seismic shift felt in the UK European Elections
Politics is a funny old game. They say a week is a long time in politics, but 24 hours can, and as the results of the European election has shown, seen a seismic shift in voting patterns from that of the local government elections. As I said in my previous post At the local election, UKIP made small but noticeable gains. Unlike the Cons and Lib Dems who had their numbers of Councillors cut.
The European elections returned a completely different picture with UKIP winning this election. It is being said this result is the first time since 1910 when the two main parties have not won a national election. This is a huge shockwave which is reverberating across the country. These results might not be an earthquake, but tea cups and windows are certainly rattling in response.
In Cornwall – who elects six MEPs – we saw UKIP top the polls. However, they were unable to add to their existing two MEP’s. The Conservatives lost one seat, and now have two. Labour and the Greens took the remaining two places with one MEP apiece. The Lib Dems where Cornwall is seen as one if not their power base (three MPs and jointly running the local authority) came third in Cornwall and fifth in the South West. The overall South West result saw the Lib Dems lose their MEP who has held his seat for the last 20 years.
The results for Cornwall with a turnout of 36% are:
- UKIP – 53,943
- Conservative Party – 37,698
- Lib Dems – 17,840
- Green Party – 16,398
- Labour Party – 16,122
- An Independence from Europe – 2,530
- English Democrats – 1,323
- BNP – 1,106
The results by total numbers of votes for the whole of the South West are:
- UKIP – 484,184
- Conservative Party – 433,151
- Labour Party – 206,124
- Green Party – 166,447
- Lib Dems – 160,376
Compare this to the results from 2009 ( 3 Cons, 2 UKIP and 1 LD) the changes in percentage terms are: UKIP: +10.6%; Labour Party: +5.6%; Green Party: +1.7%; Lib Dem: -6.1%; Conservative Party: -o.6%
The national picture sees UKIP taking the largest share with 24 (+11) MEPs this is followed by the Labour Party 20; the Conservative Party 19; Lib Dem 1; Green Party 3; SNP 2 ; Plaid 1. It is clear who the winner was with 28% of the vote. It is also clear who was the greater loser; with the Lib Dems having a disaster by losing 10 MEPs and now has a solidity one MEP. Though to be fair the Conservatives lost 7 MEP’s and have the first time in history came third in a national election. So it was not a good night for the two government parties.
I am no political pundit, and you can dismiss my waffle, but it is clear people’s voting pattern changes depending on what they are voting for. The local elections saw people voting along the main party lines. However, the European election saw this turned on its head with UKIP winning the day. The question is why?
Is the European vote seen as a more protest vote to warn the main parties you need to talk about the issue that concern the masses? Even if some of those issues are on immigration and the perception of a federalist Europe? Maybe the rise of UKIP is because the main parties had fudged the issue of Europe and people want to have a say. I have heard both the out of Europe and pro-Europe camp say let’s have a proper debate and vote. Then the country can just get on with it in or out of Europe.
It is funny how both the Scottish Government and Westminster are supporting a vote on independence and the possible break-up of the Union, but neither will allow a vote on membership of Europe? Something is wrong and looks like politicians do not trust the public to make an informed choice and vote accordingly on the issue of Europe. It is the fear factor the political elite might not get a result they like? Maybe this is the reason why the election is returning these results.
A surprise result is UKIP have an MEP in Scotland. This is more of a surprise because UKIP do not have anyone elected to the Scottish Government, or even a Councillor in local government. In Wales, a Labour heartland, we saw UKIP narrowly beaten into second place by 0.62% of the vote. It is clear UKIP are not seen just as an ‘English’ party.
Across Europe many of the more anti-federalist parties have made gains. Denmark and France are the most prominent right-wing winners; the latter saw the National Front taking 25% of the vote. It is being reported that 30% of the under 30’s voted for the National Front. The ruling French party was beaten into third place. It is not only right-wing parties taking the honours, Greece has voted for a far-left party. The thread of many of the results is more on self-determination by ‘mother parliaments’ and less on federalism. Again to be fair and balanced, the majority of the MEP’s both left and right are your more pro-european than anti. So I doubt we will suddenly see a huge change of direction in Europe.
I would say the most shocking part in all this and the local election is the poor turnout. For the UK, we are looking like a 35% turnout. One figure I saw was for Poland who are reporting a 23% turnout. They say you get the representation you vote for. I say it is more like you get the representation because the majority do not vote.
Something must be done about the poor turnout. It is hard to look at the voter turnout for local elections as boundaries have changed. But you can look at the results of the general election when in 1950 the turnout was 83.9% and has dropped to a turnout of 65.1% in 2010. The 2001 General Election saw the worse result with a turnout of 59%. And let’s not get started on the Police and Crime Commissioner Election when we saw a 15% turnout. My plea is use your vote, and make it count.
Lastly, I talked about the knives being out in my last blog, but before the European results it was more of butter knives. Now, it seems some real sharp knives are being wielded which will cut. How deep these knives will cut will come apparent in the next few days and weeks. But from the news today it looks like sharp knives are being openly wielded.
With the General Election a little over 350 days away there is a lot to play for especially in Cornwall where all six parliamentary seat are marginal and could go either way. So I expect a lot of soul searching and campaign planning in the coming months.