- Jack Bell
The EU elections were not a victory for leave or remain
Nigel Farage was not wrong when he stood defiant declaring that, “there’s massive message here”, the day after the election results came out. The message the British people have sent is one of dissatisfaction with the established political order. The picture that has been painted is that the country is still just as divided as three years ago.
The results show that the Brexit Party completely wiped out the Conservatives and Labour over their mismanagement of Brexit. However, the Brexit Party has, presumably, gained the majority of UKIP votes (27.5%) from 2014 so the extent to which this supposedly ‘new’ party has come out of nowhere is a slight misnomer. Similar to the remain parties, they have seemingly also consumed the votes from leave Conservatives and Labour with their vote shares decreasing by 14.8% and 11.3% respectively. This clearly sends a message to Westminster that the population is not happy with their handling of Brexit. Leave voters are not happy with the government’s Brexit deal and many remain voters aren’t happy on Labour’s unclear stance either.
As a Labour member, I still do not know where the Labour Party stands on Brexit. Some on the front-bench, like Emily Thornberry and John McDonnell, are now supporting a second referendum whereas Jeremy Corbyn wants to leave the EU, but will not support what the government has negotiated. In this election, like many of my peers, I found myself not being able to support Labour’s Brexit stance, so I voted for the Green Party, for the first time. Alastair Campbell, Blair’s former chief spin doctor, said that for the first time in his life he would be voting for the Liberal Democrats. This is where the majority of the remain vote has gone. The parties that unequivocally support Brexit have won a huge margin over the traditional parties who seem to have lost their backbone. The failure of the House of Commons to come to any form of consensus is disappointing to say the least and the voters have rejected them for it. We did not leave the EU on the 29th March as promised. Or the 11th April. Or even the 22nd May. However, Theresa May is not solely to blame for everything. The opposition benches have also contributed to the disastrous situation we now find ourselves in. Voters have rejected this “sitting on the fence” stance and have voted quite clearly for other parties, in protest, in order to send a clear message, whichever way they voted in 2016.
The biggest success of the night went to the remain parties. For me, this election was never about the number of seats each party got; it was the vote share margins which they managed to gain. This was a de facto second referendum for many across the country. Ann Widdecombe’s seat in the South West region was won by remain parties with leave supporting parties gaining 39.93% of the vote and remain gaining 44.05%. Nigel Farage’s South East Region had a similar story with remain gaining 43.44% of the vote and leave gaining just 38.29%. However, this was not repeated across the country though, as 6 out of the 11 regions voted in favour of Brexit with an average of 7.12% difference between leave and remain. Nationally, though, the United Kingdom voted in favour of remain parties at 40.4% with pro-Brexit parties garnering 34.9%. Is this a clear win for either remain or leave? It is not. This just proves that the country still cannot decide on what it wants.
In conclusion, we cannot draw any answers from this election. Do we want a deal with the EU and leave? Do we want a no-deal Brexit? Do we want to remain? This election answered none of these questions and simply showed they we are just as polarised as we were two years ago. With Scotland overwhelmingly voting for remain parties over leave parties, it also opens the option of a second independence referendum. Therefore, the only way to fix this mess is the way we got into it in the first place. A referendum.