So the European Elections are all over, and I have good news for you. Your side has won. Whichever side you are on. If you just add A+B to C and forget about D then quite clearly there is a majority for whatever your preferred outcome is. Remainers and Leavers can both rejoice...
Joking aside, now that the dust has settled, one of our resident election nerds Researcher Mike Hough digests the results; who had a good night; what happens next and whether we can really read anything into the results.
WHO HAD A GOOD NIGHT?
Firstly we have to start with Nige and his shiny new party. The Brexit Party topped the poll with 32% and finished highest in nine of the twelve regions. For the second consecutive European elections, Farage has won. Not bad for a party that was only officially set up six weeks ago. Their strong performance will have worried both Tory and Labour headquarters. Good job there isn’t a tight by-election coming up in a Brexit facing seat anytime soon. We’re looking at you this Thursday Peterborough.
The #LibDemfightback is now a very real thing. Coming fresh off successful local elections, the Lib Dems finished second securing an impressive 20% of the vote. They even beat the Labour Party in London. The Lib Dems have successfully managed to position themselves as the main outlet for frustrated Remainers. Despite this (Vince also resigned on Friday, but if you blinked you probably missed it!), the prospect of further growth is tantalising and will likely dominate their forthcoming leadership contest. It is no wonder the Lib Dems feel like they are back.
Lastly, it was a good night for the independence leaning parties in Scotland and Wales. The SNP scooped up a substantial 38%; a big increase on their performance in 2014. With continued talk of an imminent new independence referendum, the SNP’s momentum shows no sign of fading. In Wales, Plaid Cymru has been enjoying something of a recent revival. Despite finishing behind the Brexit Party, Plaid successfully outpolled Labour. Don’t underestimate how much of a big deal this is for Welsh politics. No Welsh independence referendum looks likely, but all routes to Labour electoral victory run through Wales and this is looking less and less probable..
CAN WE REALLY READ ANYTHING INTO THESE RESULTS?
It is crucial to avoid drawing too wide a conclusion from the Euro Election results. Not too much. Turnout was only 37.6%. Fewer than two in five turned out to vote, compared to the 68.8% turnout at the General Election and the 72.2% turnout at the EU referendum. To many voters, it was seen as a free hit so trying to extrapolate what would happen at a future election or referendum from these results is not sensible. But most pundits had a go anyway.
One conclusion we would draw is that these results show a country that remains polarised. Yes, that polarised word again. The success of the Brexit Party and the Lib Dems and their differing positions show both Remainers and Leavers continue to be passionate about their cause. The results also indicate that adopting a strong position, be it a No-deal Brexit or a second referendum is electorally fruitful. Constructive ambiguity is no longer the way forward. Expect both Labour and the Tories to take note.
SO WHERE DO WE GO NEXT?
The immediate response from the Tories will be framed by their imminent leadership contest. At the time of writing we have 13 (yes, 13) runners and riders. With the haemorrhaging of the Tory vote to the Brexit Party, a lot of candidates will compete to sound the toughest on Brexit and leaving the EU (with honourable exception, Sam Gyimah). We expect that whoever the new Tory leader turns out to be will adopt a far tougher stance on Brexit and could even favour a No Deal (e.g Johnson, McVey, Raab). Quite whether this is feasible with the current parliamentary maths is another question.
In the shade from all this heat and light remain the Labour Party who had a disastrous night. Since the results have been counted the push from senior Labour figures has been for the party to take a stronger pro-Remain position. To date, Corbyn has held off but as more and more senior figures within his party publicly contemplate it, the pressure may become too great. It cannot become too long before Labour officially becomes an all-singing, all-dancing backer of another referendum. This will please Alistair Campbell, even if his expulsion from the Labour Party won’t. It may also signal the beginning of the end of Corbyn.
So, in conclusion? The Conservatives and Labour Party moving further apart. Divisions in Parliament likely to expand. No real decisive conclusion on the way forward. These election results indicate this debate is here to stay. There will be no Brexit reprieve. And yes we are still going to be talking about Brexit for the foreseeable future. Ultimately more of the same. Sorry!