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European Election Results

John Simkin

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What happened in your country’s European Elections?

The big news in Britain is that the UK Independence Party (Ukip) won 16.1 per cent of the vote. This compares to 7% in 1999 and 1% in 1994. During these European elections they stood on the single issue of the UK pulling out of the EU. They say Britain's currency, legal system, nationality, right to free speech, police and armed forces are threatened by continued membership of the EU.

Public opinions polls suggest that around 50% of the British public agree with Ukip. However, given the conservative nature of the British people, a referendum calling for withdrawal from the EU would be beaten.

The largest support for UKip comes from prosperous regions in the south of the country. As a result, most of their vote (45%) has come from the Conservatives. However, the Liberal Democrats, the most pro-EU party, saw an increase in its vote. It is claimed that New Labour’s image of being uncertain about Europe (and its very pro-American stance) has lost it support from committed Europeans.

The Conservative vote (% of the electorate who voted for them) was the lowest since 1832. Labour’s vote was the lowest since 1910. There was also a decline in support for the British National Party (most of these have gone to the UKip and the Conservative Party – the natural home of right-wing extremists).

We also had local elections at the same time. This also shows interesting developments. New Labour lost control of several councils in old industrial areas and university towns. The swing was to more left-wing parties (Liberal Democrats and the Greens). This is a stark warning to New Labour that they cannot rely on the support of those who still hold left-wing views.

The interesting factor is how the two major parties are going to respond to these events. The Tories will no doubt become more extremist in its views on the EU and issues like immigration and asylum seekers. New Labour will emphasise it commitment to the welfare state, education, health service, etc. However, few will believe them and will judge them by their record.

Current trends suggest New Labour is still likely to win the next election (although they might not win an overall majority and might be forced to share power with the Liberal Democrats). However, as we all know, the most important factor in all elections is the state of economy. The economic situation could be better at the moment (low unemployment, interest rates and inflation, steady economic growth, etc.). This could change very quickly (the increasing oil prices is a particular problem). A report recently claimed that British personal debt is equivalent to the national debt of both Africa and Central America put together. It is also said to be greater than the accumulated personal debt of the rest of Europe. This is the basis of our economic success. It is only a matter of time before the bubble bursts.

As Thatcher showed in the 1980s it is possible to win elections with high levels of unemployment. However, at the time of the election, unemployment has to be falling. I think that at the next election unemployment is bound to be increasing. If that is the case, Blair will have great difficulty remaining in power.

I would be interested in hearing what happened in your country’s European Elections. Was there a trend towards anti-EU feelings? Are you moving towards the left or the right?


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