June 8, 2009
The people have spoken, now that the results of the European elections are known. But what have they actually said?
The Eurosceptic parties have, on the whole, done well. But is it meaningful to lump the Green party alongside the BNP in totalling up all the votes for the Eurosceptics? UKIP hides from no-one its desire to see Britain leave the European Union, but David Cameron’s Conservatives have specifically ruled that out as a policy outcome. There’s a lot of unease about the EU visible in the votes cast, but there’s a big difference between that and a vote of no confidence in the EU as a whole.
Nor was there a consistent swing from the pro-Europeans to the Eurosceptics. In Scotland, the beneficiaries of the decline in the Labour vote were the SNP, not the Conservatives or UKIP, both of whose share of the vote declined. Perhaps the main factor was not views about Europe at all, but views about the Labour government. If the biggest pro-European party declines for other reasons, the pro-European vote will fall with it.
And, how much can we actually read into a European election in any case? Everybody knows that you can’t change the government as the result of a European election, and the powers of the European Parliament, while considerable, don’t apply to the most important issues of taxation and public spending, so turnout is lower and the PR system makes it more rewarding to vote for minority parties. Was the election last Thursday a good guide to anything?
And lastly, let us not forget that this was not an election only in the UK. Across 27 countries, in an unprecedented display of international democracy, citizens cast their votes for MEPs to serve for the next five years. In most countries, Eurosceptic parties remained firmly in the minority. There is life in the European idea yet.
UK election results here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/elections/euro/09/html/ukregion_999999.stm
EU-wide results here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/elections/euro/09/flash/html/eu.stmAuthor : European Movement UK