The Farage Barrage: British European Elections
I remember two years ago when we were not supposed to be having European elections anymore, because the deadline for Brexit was in March, 2019, but here we are.
After the disastrous handling of Brexit for over two years, leading to the end of the careers of two Prime Ministers, this European election has been held in the midst of rising political tensions across the world. We shall present the results, interpretations of those results, and predictions of what is to come.
Firstly, here are the results of the election (BBC, 2019a):
Brexit Party - 29 seats
Liberal Democrats - 16 seats
Labour - 10 seats
Greens - 7 seats
Conservative Party - 4 seats
Scottish National Party - 3 seats
Plaid Cymru (a Welsh Party) - 1 seat
Democratic Unionist Party (an Irish Party) - 1 seat
Here are the results presented on a map below (BBC, 2019a):
We can see that the Scottish National Party holds almost all of the North, with Wales and England firmly in the hands of the Brexit Party. A small smattering of Liberal Democrats around England, with Labour holding some areas in London and some urban areas. Labours’ utter loss in both Scotland and Wales, as well as the Tories’ loss in England shows a loss of the popular support for these parties, possibly due to their handling of the Brexit debacle (Kuenssberg, 2019).
The Brexit Party
The Brexit Party was launched 6 weeks before this election, led by Mr. Nigel Farage, previously of the UKIP party. It has gone from creation to the big-winner of a national election. They are a single-issue party; leave the European Union. Mr. Farage (2019) claims that their support comes from the disappointing Brexit handling. They won 32% of the votes; they won most of England and Wales (BBC, 2019a). They want to lead the Brexit negotiations. They did primarily the best in areas that voted heavily ‘Leave’ in the referendum (BBC, 2019b).
Pro and Anti Brexit?
In terms of vote share of pro and anti-Brexit, we can see the final results as assembled by the BBC (2019a) below:
The BBC (2019a) has used the above results to say ‘more people want to stop Brexit than continue’. I believe this is a dishonest interpretation.
They place the Green Party, SNP, and Lib Dems in the anti-Brexit camp; they are. However, how many of their votes are given not because of Brexit, but because they are worried about students (Lib Dem), worried about the current big issue, the environment (Green), or because of Scottish nationalism (SNP)? Let alone the potential protest votes (Liberal Democrats? I remember them screwing us students in their government with David Cameron, I am sure I am not the only one).
I would argue that not every vote given to them would be due to pro- or anti-Brexit tendencies. On the contrary, both the Brexit Party and UKIP are single-issue parties for Brexit; every vote for them (except some protest votes) are on the Brexit issue. Meanwhile, for the fringe parties (BBC, 2019b):
We can see a strong correlation between Brexit and the Brexit Party, as well as the Lib Dems and Greens on the other side. However; we also know that voters against Brexit also tend to be more progressive in their politics (Morgan, 2016); matching them with the Greens (liberals) and Lib Dems (liberal students and ex-students) anyway. The anti-Brexit tend to be well-educated, liberal, relatively well-off (Economist, 2019); more supporting evidence here.. The average Green voter is young, votes Liberal Democrat and Green (maybe Labour), students, part-time workers, and female. They work in offices; they are not skilled nor unskilled labourers, which are the most easily replaced work for both migrants and automation, and so don’t mind the limitless immigration (Stellings, 2015). Here is an article about how immigration does, however, affect the voters of the Brexit Party.
Are they voting for Brexit, or their other political concerns? Probably a mix of both. Let’s estimate that 95% of the pro-Brexit votes were for Brexit; somewhere between 50%-90% of the votes to the anti-Brexit parties would be against Brexit. This would put the Total Vote Share of purely pro- and anti-Brexit parties somewhere around:
If 18% of the anti-Brexit parties voted for non-Brexit reasons, that would please them below the pro-Brexit vote share (<33.2%). I don’t think this is an unreasonable estimate.
Even if half of the Green party voters alone voted for the environment instead of Brexit, this would be enough to place them under the pro-Brexit vote share. So depending on how much of their rhetoric and followers focused on Brexit, the anti-Brexit vote may have nothing to do with anti-Brexit at all, and may certainly not prove a consensus against Brexit. I believe the BBC has been a tad dishonest with this interpretation.
All we know is this. Both sides have claimed victory. Neither side has victory. Brexit is still in limbo. God help us all.
Here are the vote shares below (2019a):
The fact that UKIP has not won a single seat, and lost all of their previous seats; that the Brexit party has out-performed all expectations can tell you one thing: Nigel Farage is, in the United Kingdom, political gold. Wherever he seems to walk, success follows him politically. Regardless of milkshakes being thrown at him and dislike from many people, he has shown he has the support of a wide-spread of the British people.
MEP for the South East Nigel Farage, leader and founder of the Brexit Party, and previously the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, is quoted as saying (BBC, 2019a):
“With a big, simple message - which is we’ve been badly let down by two parties who have broken their promises - we have topped the poll in fairly dramatic style…The two party system serves nothing but itself. I think they are an obstruction to the modernising of politics…and we are going to take them on”
He may not be wrong; the Labour Party received 15% of the vote, and the Conservatives received less than 10% of the vote. This doesn’t bode well for any upcoming elections. Prime Minister hopeful and favourite Boris Johnson called the results “a crushing rebuke”; current but soon to be previous Prime Minister Theresa May called it “a disappointing night for Conservatives”, but took comfort that “Labour has also suffered some big losses” (BBC, 2019a). They are not wrong; both establishment parties performed poorly (BBC, 2019b):
Notice that neither party managed to break the 20% mark in voter shares; there isn’t any great difference between their pro- or anti-Brexit areas because the parties themselves aren’t seen to be pro- or anti-Brexit.
Kuenssberg (2019) predicts that the victories of the anti-Brexit parties will drive Labour to become more anti-Brexit, possibly moving to have a second referendum. Not only that, but the massive success of the Brexit party will likely drive the Conservatives to become more hard-line on Brexit. These predictions don’t seem wrong; Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has already begun to back a second referendum promise (BBC, 2019a).
Combine this with the possible Prime Minister Johnson (who led the Leave campaign), we may see the Conservatives move to a Hard Brexit Party. As Farage himself said (BBC, 2019c): If Brexit is not resoolved, we could see the potential for a fourth party, maybe even Farage’s Brexit Party, to take a chunk out of the Conservative and Labour supporters. I suspect to also see a new expansion of the Liberal Democrats as the third party.
Due to the lack of broad support for any one party, we can almost certainly expect a coalition government in the next election at this rate; perhaps a Labour-Lib Dem-Green coalition. I do not expect a Conservative-DUP-Brexit Party to pull together, and the Brexit Party has positioned itself as against the establishment. To join the Tories for a coalition would be a betrayal not unlike the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition of Cameron-Clegg.
Unsurprisingly, Brexit remains the issue of the day. The 50:50 voting results suggests that the country remains quite split on the issue; there is still no uniting forward path. Someone will have the take the path of annoying half the country, and possible political suicide.
Interestingly, this may prove the beginning of the Liberal Democrats redemption arc; widely reviled due to broken promises under Nick Clegg, the increase in votes may lead to a renewed legitimacy for the third party.
Nigel Farage will remain a divisive figure, but one similar to Trump; he will have a strong base of support whatever he does. If the United Kingdom had an election system similar to the United States, and allowed direct election of the heads of government, we could easily expect a Prime Minister Farage. Under the current system, this is impossible (for the foreseeable future).
Anyone who says that Brexit has won; it hasn’t. Anyone who says that Brexit has lost; it hasn’t. This is the same stalemate we have had for the past two years. The only winner was Nigel Farage. However, the rise of the Brexit Party under MEP Farage tells us that this is a strong issue, and that Farage himself is a strong political figure in the United Kingdom. We can also see a massive growth for the Green Party in the United Kingdom as the youth vote gets older and reaches the voting age in greater numbers. We can see a strong split in opinions between Scotland against England and Wales. It also shows a massive political wave sweeping over Westminister.
We can also see the rotting establishment begin to fold into itself. Both Labour and the Tories are dying from the inside out, as younger, healthier, dynamic, and more radical parties move into their place. Regardless of how these establishment parties react, the newer, more educated, more opinionated young vote is beginning to express itself. The philosophies of the millennials and the generation afterwards are beginning to make themselves felt, and the movement away from traditionalist, conservative, labour-based workforces towards the progressive, socialist, and technology and service based workforce is beginning to express itself stronger. Combine this with two major parties more interested in shouting across the House of Commons than actually solving the issue, and this is what you get. I am looking forward to the next General Election. Should be fun.
In all articles, I provide as much information for sources as possible, including links. I encourage everyone reading this article to read deeper, and make their own conclusions. For students, links are here so they can read the original source themselves.
BBC, (2019a), “European Elections 2019: Brexit Party dominates as Tories and Labour suffer”, published by the BBC, London, United Kingdom, retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-48417228 on 28th May 2019.
……, (2019b), “European Election 2019: UK Results in maps and charts”, published by the BBC, London, United Kingdom, retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-48403131 on 28th May 2019.
……, (2019c), “European elections 2019: Brexit Party tops South East poll”, published by the BBC, London, United Kingdom, retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-48417564 on 28th May 2019.
Economist, (2019), “The radicalisation of Remainers”, published by the Economist, retrieved from https://www.economist.com/britain/2019/04/04/the-radicalisation-of-remainers on 28th May 2019.
Farage, N., (2019), “European Elections: Nigel Farage ‘There’s a message here’ - BBC News”, published by the BBC News, BBC, London, United Kingdom, retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0OgbH5gK5o on 28th May 2019.
Kuenssberg, L., (2019), “European Elections 2019: Tories and Labour punished for Brexit contortions”, published by the BBC, London, United Kingdom, retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-48418922 on 28th May 2019.
Morgan, J., (2016), “EU Referendum: nine out of 10 university staff back Remain”, published by the BBC, London, United Kingdom, retrieved from https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/european-union-referendum-nine-out-of-ten-university-staff-back-remain#survey-answer on 28th May 2019.
Stellings, L., (2015), “The Green Index: Who’s Voting Green?”, published by the Huffington Post, retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/laurence-stellings/green-party_b_6593244.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS5oay8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAAy2w6djtYW1-E9TtbhrvHAOwgr0RrPa27pMvnZsRtfb7xAphq2iagvXBHbWX6dn7LDyRWTn6rv1I3FwoQQOqWhUcj-rYEAXr7IXRpBta22MesYNG2oPVAqNUnjwHwnyr-pnXGqGTmNUwvJsGC_xz-9lg_CkGJG2Blc5Py7VQyzA on 28th May 2019.