What to think about these last 24 hours?
Watching the results of the EU elections come in on the BBC last night was a peculiar experience. Frankly, I don’t remember a time when anyone paid such close attention to these elections. It felt like a general election night, not an EU one.
But thank God it wasn’t. It was like living in an alternate reality watching the Lib Dems and the Brexit Party overtake Labour and the Conservatives — truly a swimming pool of dogshit relative to what we’ve already stepped in — but it remains to be seen what impact — if any — this will actually have on our day-to-day politics.
It’s perhaps worth saying that things might not be as bad as they seem. Jehu wrote a short blog, for instance, which contained only the following declaration:
A party that didn’t exist a month ago, now leads in Britain and will determine the UK’s relations with the European Union.
But I think it is worth emphasising that I don’t think anyone has ever paid so much attention to these elections before now. The main reason they have been all over the news is perhaps that no one even expect to still be voting in them and so, in England at least, it seems to be something of a protest election. (Not in Scotland, though, which seems to be seriously preparing itself for the possibility of a continuing relationship with the EU and a separatist relationship with the rest of the UK.)
With Brexit supposedly meant to have happened by now, it seems that many have used these elections as an opportunity to dissent from their usual party loyalties. And so, seemingly using the EU elections as a proxy referendum, we see the Brexit Party on top with the Lib Dems, who have taken a harder “remain” position than Labour, generally coming in second in many constituencies.
We can’t be too surprised that a single issue party has swept the floor in what is, for this country at least, a single issue election, however the Lib Dems’ success is very bizarre. It’s exactly 10 years since they last started talking themselves up as the alternative to the mainstream, particularly on the issue of university tuition fees, before they then rolled over on to let their Conservative coalition chums tickle their tummies. Again: thank fuck this isn’t a general.
The results of the EU elections have always painted a very different picture of the UK than the results of its general elections. (Nigel Farage has long been an MEP, for instance — since 1999 — but has never led a successful campaign to become a member of the UK’s own parliament, much to his embarrassment.) So to say the Brexit Party now leads Britain and will determine its relationship to the EU isn’t very accurate, I’m afraid. These elections are unlikely to be of any real consequence for the UK’s politics in itself but that’s not to say that this hasn’t been a complete embarrassment for the political mainstream in this country.
We’ll have to wait for the (probably imminent) general election to see if this sentiment carries over…
If it does, we’ll be in for a very interesting four years…