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Last Friday, the RMI policy team gave you a brief summary of what the elections had turned up thus far assessing the local council election results. Now, the European election results are in and as of Sunday (25 May) there’s a good argument to claim that the face of British politics has changed forever, or at least for the foreseeable future. The next 12 months look set to be an interesting year in the lead up to the May 2015 General Election.
Now with the results looking as below, with Ukip the frontline winners and the Liberal Democrats falling further behind than ever, there’sa lot to be discussed:
Vote 2014 Europe: Great Britain
|UKIP||Votes Percentage 27.49||+10.99||MEPs 24||MEPs +/- +11|
|LAB||Votes Percentage 25.40||+9.67||MEPs 20||MEPs +/- +7|
|CON||Votes Percentage 23.93||-3.80||MEPs 19||MEPs +/- -7|
|GRN||Votes Percentage 7.87||-0.75||MEPs 3||MEPs +/- +1|
|SNP||Votes Percentage 2.46||0.34||MEPs 2||MEPs +/- 0|
|LD||Votes Percentage 6.87||-6.87||MEPs 1||MEPs +/- -10|
|PC||Votes Percentage 0.71||-0.13||MEPs 1||MEPs +/- 0|
|BNP||Votes Percentage 1.14|
(Table taken from BBC news)
The two party system really is over!
So what can we see; as the Guardian has reported, Ukip’s election victory on Sunday is the first time in over 110 years that neither the Conservatives, nor Labour, have ‘topped the poll in a national election’. Not since December 1910 has another party gained more votes than the Conservative or Labour set strong hold.
As a result, what we are likely to see now is a clear shift is policy focuses in the run up to next year’s general election.
The Conservatives will be forced to sit further right than they currently have been, with a harder line to be taken on European involvement and immigration, regaining some of the far right supporters they have undoubtedly now lost to Ukip.
The Labour party will need to reengage with their traditional working voters and have the greatest importance placed on employment. When questioned on Ed Miliband, Nigel Farage stated that “it is difficult to think of somebody who is more out of touch with his own working class voters, than Dave, Danny Alexander and the crew, and I think the calls upon them to offer a referendum ahead of the next general election are going to be enormous”. He went on further to point out that he believed, if Labour did not offer an EU referendum, then they would become Ukip’s best recruiting source. Whether this is true or not is yet to be decided, however, what is notable is that it was only thanks to the London effect Labour managed to beat the Conservatives. No doubt this is something Miliband will be assessing greatly, as well as to what extent he can count this as a victory over the Conservatives.
For the Liberal Democrats however, a change of policy focus may take somewhat of a back seat to potential discussions of a change in leadership. Whilst Nick Clegg has insisted he will not be stepping down after his party’s major defeat, with the Liberal Democrats only securing one of 12 MEPs, it is difficult to see how he will regain faith and confidence from the electorate and undoubtedly some members of his own party.
And finally, Alex Salmond and the Scottish National Party will need to reassess their strategy as Scotland moves out of its UKIP-free zone, which Salmond claimed he would ensure did not happen. Does this now mean that the SNP will also engage in serious anti-European commitments? As The Telegraph reported, ‘David Coburns thanks Alex Salmond for helping secure his election and argues Scots have the same concerns as the English about immigration’..
Perhaps what is most notable regarding the elections is that only 33.8% of the British electorate chose to vote. Whilst Farage undoubtedly caused the political ‘Earthquake’ he claimed he would, is the victory as staggering as it initially feels. It is perhaps necessary to consider the statement made by political correspondent Rowena Mason, “Millions of people voted for Farage’s party, but in percentages terms, it was only about 9% of the voting population. The turnout was even lower that the last European elections, so experts warn against trying to translate these results into prediction for the next year‘s general election’. The only thing for certain is that this is clearly now, very much, a four dog race.