I will be adding a poll to this post below to see how people feel about the EU, please take part in it
UKIP have won! They are the undisputed champions of the elections and are on course for a landslide next year… It’s difficult to convey irony in writing sometimes, and amongst the hyperbole of the media today, I’m afraid that it might be lost unless i explain my opening sentence. You see, according to the media something massive has happened in British politics, and in European politics; UKIP are no longer a protest fringe group, but part of the mainstream.
First of all, I don’t deny that UKIP are a force in British politics now. Yes, they have increased their vote, and also topped the poll (in England), won 23 seats, and increased their vote by 10.99%. However, is this as significant as many would have you believe? The European elections are seen by many as a protest vote against the governing party (or parties in the case of this year). UKIP have done well in the Euro elections since 2004, and the fact remains, they have no MPs and are unlikely to win any Westminster seats; or at least not enough to warrant the tag line ‘Political earthquake’.
If (it seems an increasingly big ‘if’ at this moment) Cameron wins an outright majority next year, and a referendum is held on Europe, then the wind will be taken out of the sails of HMS Farage. Let’s consider another scenario. It would seem that this result has forced the mainstream parties to consider Europe and it certainly will be an election issue in 2016, at the least the next UK government will push for EU reform. If it can be demonstrated that the UK has had a good deal out of any reform, then the rise of UKIP with be stopped in its tracks.
However, can we really say that there is something new here in Wales? The distribution of seats remains one each for Plaid, Labour, Conservative and UKIP. Labour remains at the top of the poll, and, in fact was close to gaining another seat. I would contend this morning’s headline on the BBC News Wales website “Wales’ as Eurosceptic as rest of UK”. It begins with the same line as all other media outlets, how we’re all Euro-skeptics now, yet it goes on to show that 308,401 (508,143 if you include the Tories) people voted for pro EU parties as opposed to 224,917. I would say that the majority of the people who voted are pro Europe, wouldn’t you?
And how will all of this affect business in Brussels and Strasbourg? The truth is, UKIP will not have much sway in the European Parliament, it belongs to the EFD grouping, which (at the time of writing) has 38 seats, making it the smallest grouping in the Parliament.
This is how i see it:
- UKIP have performed better than last time.
- It certainly is a protest vote against the governing parties.
- People want reform of the EU – but not out.
- UKIP will not win many (if any) seats in Westminster.
- There will be a danger that an ‘in/out’ referendum will be held where turnout is very low and a decision to leave the EU will be taken by around 15% of the electorate.