While I did not participate in the European Parliament elections, the results have certainly proven to be interesting to watch. This post will be a reflection of what I have seen of the results and what they mean in a broad sense.
The British results
Most of the country appears to have voted for the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage’s right wing pet party, with the BXP dominating most of the twelve regions in decisive fashion. It was incredible, a mixture of awe and terror, to behold this upstart right-libertarian party just devour whole constituencies, in many cases replacing the Conservative and UKIP vote. However it would be wrong to say that the Brexit Party was the only party to be making out like bandits in the election. For the first time in ages, the Liberal Democrats, having positioned themselves as the anti-Brexit party, have surged to second place in the overall results, and they’ve managed to come first in London (which I’m sure is really no surprise because London is liberal as all hell). The Greens have also had some modest success; while they didn’t beat the Labour Party, they managed to surge past the Conservatives in fourth place. In Scotland, the SNP dominates basically all of Scotland except for the Orkney Islands (which went to the Liberal Democrats), with the Brexit Party likely to stick behind them. In Wales, Brexit Party dominates the scene, as I predicted, but with Plaid Cymru in second place, placing the traditionally dominant Labour Party in third place, a new low for the party all things considered. The Conservative Party across the country has had a horrific night, getting wiped out almost everywhere, with only 4 Tory MEPs (including arch-capitalist and arch-Brexiteer Daniel Hannan) remaining. The Labour Party, while it has managed to hold out, coming second place in North West England for instance, the general trend is a picture of defeat, with many on the liberal faction of the party calling for Jeremy Corbyn to resign as Labour leader. The real losers, besides the Tories, might just be Change UK, having utterly failed to capitalize on the Remain vote, often falling below even UKIP (a party that has only managed to be marginalized further and had all of its MEPs wiped out, not to mention the party leader Gerard Batten losing his seat), and are now considering folding into the Liberal Democrats (where, to be honest, all of its MPs belong).
So what does all of this mean for me? What can we take from any of this? Well we can start with the obvious observation that this showing was a victory for parties that were unambigious in their stance on Brexit, whether pro-Remain or pro-Leave. The Conservative Party failed to deliver to Brexit, and have persisted in a quagmire of indecisiveness, insecurity and compromise. As such, they have paid the price for their weakness. The Labour Party too has been murky on the subject: while many in the party are in favour of remaining in the EU, Jeremy Corbyn has often held an indecisive position, and it is not clear whether he actually supports or opposes the EU – really, it’s only clear that he wants there to be a new general election. The Brexit Pary and the Liberal Democrats, by contrast, offer decisive positions – with the Brexit Party fighting to ensure that leave the EU, deal or no deal, and the Liberal Democrats fighting to try and stop Brexit entirely. The Greens too are unambiguously pro-EU, and so are the SNP and Plaid Cymru. There’s another lesson to take from this though. In the run up to the elections, many right-wing political candidates have had milkshakes thrown at them by left-leaning protesters, who have since taken to rallying behind milkshakes as a symbol of anti-fascist praxis. While it is to me hilarious and ridiculous that the right wing have decided that getting sploshed with milkshakes is a form of fascistic political violence, it once again shows how inept the left is, considering their performative antics have failed to prevent the surge of right-wing populism in the UK. The only thing they can gloat about it is the fact that Carl Benjamin (Sargon of Akkad), Markus Meechan (Count Dankula) and Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (Tommy Robinson) failed to win any seats, but if you believed they were going to make any serious gains in politics then you are frankly too dumb to be talking about politics. Benjamin was UKIP’s second candidate for the South West, so he had no chance of winning anyway, and Dankula was UKIP’s fourth candidate for Scotland, which means he had even less chance of winning than Benjamin, and Robinson conceded his campaign and would have been steamrolled anyway as an independent (in fact, he lost to Change UK). Progressives who take credit for “stopping hate” while their larping antics failed to defeat the Brexit Party are worthy of my contempt.
This in my mind underscores just how shallow and cynical the British media really is. In the run up to these elections, the media hyped up the UKIP candidacy of Carl Benjamin over his past trolling of Jess Philips and his aggressive conservative stance against all of the parties except UKIP, running multiple stories about his stupid comments, and Carl in turn thought he could use this to his advantage in order to get people to talk about him so that he might get elected, but it never happened because the party wasn’t going to run him as one of their top candidates. They similarly hyped up the pathetic Change UK party, who ended up doing worse than UKIP. They paid a fair bit of attention to Tommy Robinson, whose only life force in British politics comes from that money-grubbing Rebel Media boss Ezra Levant. The British media strikes me as being interminably obsessed with losers, which will probably go along way to explaining why they ultimately sympathize with the Remain faction of politics.
There is also something to take from the thorough routing of the Tories besides their indecisiveness: Nigel Farage now poses an existential threat to the Tories, at their own admittance, and this to me opens the possibility that the Conservatives might seek to rush the leadership contest so that they can usher in a hardline Brexiteer Prime Minister in order to nip him in the bud. The specter of the Brexit Party presaged the resignation of Theresa May just a few days ago, so it seems reasonable to predict that Farage’s European Parliament election victory will lend itself to a more erratic leadership contest as well, because the Tories cannot afford to waste any more time than they already have on the Brexit issue – especially if they don’t want to face the prospect of an early election.
In general, I think people are overlooking just how much of a strong right-wing victory this was for Britain. I don’t just say this because of the Brexit Party, but because the Liberal Democrats are not the champions of the left that the Remainers want them to be. Considering the fact that the Liberal Democrats support neoliberal privatization policies and signed off on Tory austerity and never looked back, whether you’re a Leaver or a Remainer, the right won big.
There are several things that bother me about some of the reactions to the results. Jeremy Corbyn remarked that the results amounted to a proxy second referendum, yet he then extrapolated from this assessment that we should be discussing a second referendum, or a general election, in the hopes of perhaps changing the outcome of our exit. Surely, if this really was a proxy referndum, the Leave side appears to have emerged triumphant through decisive Brexit Party domination. But such delusion is not confined to Jeremy Corbyn. The Remainer faction in general appears to be trying to spin the European Parliament election results in favour of a Remain outcome on the grounds that adding up all the Remain parties would lead to a mandate for the Remain parties and thus remaining in the EU. The major problem with this, besides the fact that that’s not how politics works, is that the Remain faction can’t even agree if Labour is a part of their dream coalition, especially with Corbyn’s seemingly non-comittal stance and the fact that Labour doesn’t seem to want to drop their ambiguous commitment to the referendum result. How then, does any Remain coalition pan out? It is simply nonsensical to think that you can simply merge all the Remain parties who still lost the European parliament elections in order to turn them into the winner, especially when you consider that, if you count Labour and the Conservatives on account of the fact that they want Brexit just that they want one with a deal, you ultimately get a pro-Brexit majority rather than anti-Brexit majority. It strikes me as the Remain side obsessing with the idea of minoritarian governance. In Wales, I would say the most delusional figure in politics is Adam Price, the leader of Plaid Cymru, who went air to declare victory for the Remain faction in Wales moments after the Brexit Party won that victory with 2 MEPs and 32% of the vote share. He, more than anything else, is why you will not find me supporting Plaid Cymru despite my desire for Welsh independence.
Also, the people who are clamoring for a new general election appear to be blissfully unaware of what that might mean for the Brexit Party. If we call a new election and we still haven’t left the European Union, this creates the opportunity for them to campaign on that front in order to try and repeat their success in the European Parliament elections. Nigel Farage has confirmed that the Brexit Party will fight the next general election in such circumstances, and if their recent success is any indication they could pose a real threat to other parties. The Conservatives would almost certainly lose out in such an election, they would become irrelevant, but where Labour supporters might think this presents an easy road to power, it may actually leave space for Farage’s party to gobble up the conservative vote just like it did before, presenting a real obstacle to any left-wing party hoping for the top job.
As I write this, it is worth establishing that the only thing not accounted for is the Northern Ireland results, but seeing as they are going to take forever to declare due to their stupid religious custom of not counting votes on Sundays it seems pointless to wait for them. It does appear, however, that the liberal Alliance party may be on track to win, suggesting that the Remain side will have Northern Ireland.
The European results
Whereas the UK paints a decisive picture, the European continent presents a much more variagated and complex picture. While the EPP (the “center-right” pro-European bloc) remains dominant in the European Parliament, it will struggle to form a coalition as the traditional parties collapse in various countries. Indeed, last night’s election results have seen a rise for the liberals, greens, and nationalists in various parts of Europe.
In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party (formerly known as Front National) achieved victory over Macron’s En Marche by a narrow majority, scoring 23% of the vote share (as opposed to En Marche’s 22%) and electing 15 MEPs, inspiring Le Pen to declare the results a victory for the French people and demand Macron to dissolve the French Parliament. In Italy, Lega Nord are the clear winners in about the same way the Brexit Party was here in the UK, achieving 34% of the vote share and 29 MEPs. In Belgium, two Flemish nationalist parties lead the scene, with the New Flemish Alliance leading a majority of 13.5% of the vote share and Vlaams Belang following them with 11.5%. In Hungary, Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party leads an utterly decisive majority of 52.3%, which to be fair is to be taken with a grain of salt considering Hungary is barely a democracy. In Poland, the Law and Justice Party have a majority of 45.6%. These represent major victories for the nationalist/populist right in Europe. Bulgaria and the Czech Republic are strange cases in this trend where the dominant parties, GERB and ANO 2011 respectively, are populist parties but are pro-EU, and so while they might be counted as populists they can’t be counted among the more radical, nationalist contingents of the right.
On the other hand, the trend of nationalism we are seeing is not universal. In some countries, the left-leaning bloc have made major victories. In Spain, the social-democratic PSOE won a clear majority of 32.8% of the vote share. In Portugal, the “Socialist” Party (another social-democratic party) won 33.4%. In the Netherlands, the social-democratic Labour Party won a majority of 18.9%, a victory that was accompanied with the collapse of the nationalist PVV vote. In Sweden, the Social Democratic Party won a majority of 23.6%. In Malta, the Labour Party won a decisive 54.3% share. Across Europe, however, it seems that the status quo conservative-liberalism has triumphed once more. In Finland, Ireland, Greece, Austria, Luxembourg, Germany, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Croatia, Romania, Cyprus, Slovenia and Denmark, conservative-liberal “centrist” parties have retained a majority and ensured that the EPP retains dominance, albeit with a reduced majority. However, their leftward opponents have been growing. In Cyprus, it is my pleasure to note that the communists have come in second place, with the Progressive Party of Working People (who are Marxist-Leninist) took 27.5% of the vote share. In Denmark, the Social Democrats also came in second with 21.5% of the vote share. In Greece, Syriza held on in second place at 23.7%, and the Communist Party is in fourth place and is one of the only communist parties to have any seats in the European Parliament. In Germany, the Social Democrats came in third place, taking 15.8% of the vote share. In Croatia, the Social Democrats came in second place with 18.7%. In Austria, the SPO came in second with 23.4%. In Slovenia, the Social Democrats came in second place with 18.7%. In Belgium, the Social Democrats came in third place with 10.5%. In Romania, the Social Democrats are in second place with 23.4%. In Estonia, the Social Democrats came in second place with 23.3%. In Latvia, the social-democratic Harmony party came in second place with 17.5%. In Lithuania, the Social Democrats came in second place with 15.9%. In Bulgaria, the social-democratic Bulgarian Socialist Party is in second place with 24.4%.
This election is also noteworthy for the emergence of green parties, which have taken substantial shares of the vote in Parliament. In Germany, the Greens came in second place and took 20.5% . In Finland as well, the Green League came in second place, taking 16% of the vote share. In France, Europe Ecology came in third place with 13.5% of the vote share. In Denmark, the Socialist People’s Party, which is aligned with the European Green bloc, came in third place with 13.2% of the vote share. In Luxembourg, the Greens came in third place with 18.9% of the vote share. In Ireland, the Green party is in third place with 15% of the vote share. In Austria, the Greens came in fourth place with 14% of the vote share. In Sweden, the Green Party came in fourth place with 11.4% of the vote share. It is worth noting also that the Scottish Nationalist Party is aligned with the Greens in Europe bloc, which means that their dominance over Scotland during the British vote means that the green bloc can increase its hold in the European Parliament. More broadly, the growth of the Green Party in the rest of the UK, where they have won 11.1% of the vote share and a record 7 MEPs, seems to bolster perceptions of a rising “green wave” throughout Europe. Lithuania is a strange case in that their Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union is a green party but they are also a “centre-right” agrarian party and are not aligned with the European Green bloc. Nonetheless, they are notable for taking third place with 12.6% of the vote share.
However, in places where the nationalists didn’t win, they still managed to get a fairly large share of the vote. In Sweden, the Sweden Democrats came in third place with 15.4%. In Germany, the AfD are in fourth place with 11%. In Latvia the National Alliance, which is a patently alt-right party, came third place with 16.4%. In Finland, the True Finns (who came second in the general election last month) came in fourth place with 13.8%. In Cyprus, the nationalist Democratic Party came in third place with 13.8%, followed by the nationalist social-democratic Movement for Social Democracy. In Austria, the Freedom Party of Austria came in third place with 17.2% of the vote share. In Slovakia, most horrifyingly, the neo-fascist Kotleba party came in third place with about 12% of the vote share.
So what does all of this mean? It means, quite simply, that while the establishment has secured its dominance it will have to deal with three growing currents. The social democrats present one of the larger challenges to the liberal-conservative establishment, being the second largest bloc throughout most of Europe and victorious in some major countries. The greens will likely be the subject of attempts at coalition, with major parties already courting the German greens and possibily striving to court Green party voters. This development is likely to be taken as a sign that, throughout the continent, the threat of man-made climate change has emerged as one of the primary issues of the elections, and that Europeans likely want to push for reform in the EU on this subject. The nationalists/populists may prove to be a threat with much of the Western and Eastern bloc under their influence, especially now that the Brexit Party has emerged as a big part of the movement having secured much of the British seats. This will be very important for us because it could effect how quickly we leave the European Union and whether or not we get a deal from it, and it might be important for Europe as well because, while we haven’t quite seen the tidal wave of nationalism that I would have wanted to see two years ago, that spark of right-wing nationalism is clearly still present.
I worry especially for Western Europe because it is there where the left seems to be suffering. The Italian left has an abysmally weak presence in the European Parliament, which is dominated by right-wing populist parties and the liberal Democratic Party. The French left is weak, with all the real estate going to either Macron’s neoliberalism, Le Pen’s nationalism or the Greens. Here in the UK the left is weak as it is, being represented chiefly by the class collaborationist Labour Party and that having suffered considerably in the European Parliament election this weekend. The revivification of the left still seems very much distant.