European Elections: Pro-Remain Parties More Successful Than the Brexit Party, While 63% of Electorate Fail to Vote At All

28.5.19

A graph on the BBC website showing how Remain voters outnumbered Leave voters in the UK’s elections to the European Parliament on May 23, 2019.

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I wanted to make sure that I contributed my own analysis to the results of the election of MEPs to the European Parliament last Thursday, before the mainstream media’s juggernaut of distraction and distortion takes over.

The first key conclusion is that, although, out of nowhere, the slimy reptilian Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party took 31.6% of the vote, the Brexit Party (and UKIP’s rump vote, taking the total Leave votes to 34.9%) were outnumbered by pro-Remain parties — primarily via the Liberal Democrats on 20.3%, the Greens on 12.1%, and the SNP, Change UK and Plaid Cymru adding another 8% — 40.4% in total.

The second key conclusion is that only 37% of the registered electorate bothered to vote, meaning that we simply don’t know what the other 63% currently think. What is clear, however, is that, with just 37% of the voting age population to draw on, the Brexit Party’s alleged triumph is actually only an endorsement of its hard line on Europe from just 11.7% of the registered electorate.

As a lifelong opponent of the heartless modern version of the Conservative Party created by Margaret Thatcher, and maintained since 2010 by David Cameron and George Osborne, and, since the summer of 2016 by Theresa May, It was reassuring to see the Tories suffer their worst elections results ever. However, their losses (down to 4 seats, from 19 in 2014, and with just 9.1% of the vote, down from 23.9%), plus Labour’s woes (down to ten seats from 20, and with 14.1% of the vote, down from 25.4% in 2014) won’t be replicated in a General Election, in which our antiquated, profoundly unfair first-past-the-post system — as opposed to the European elections’ much more commendable system of proportional representation — favours the two main parties.

That said, it’s not unthinkable in the current circumstances that the Lib Dems and the Brexit Party could divide the vote sufficiently to destabilise the tired duopoly that has dominated British politics throughout my lifetime, perhaps leading a situation where, finally, we grow up sufficiently to embrace proportional representation as the only fair way of electing our MPs.

But that’s still a long way off. Now, following Theresa May’s imminent departure (amidst the tears she shed for herself, having never apparently cried about anyone else’s misfortune), the Tories are engaged in another leadership battle, bitterly divided between insane ‘no deal’ Brexiteers, led by the truly despicable and unprincipled Boris Johnson, and those more sensibly seeking to avoid economic suicide. 

If there is any poetic justice in this often strangely backward country of ours, the clash between the ‘no deal’ Brexiteers (who, it seems, all stand to make colossal amounts of money from our enforced return to the worst aspects of Victorian Britain) and the centrists still trying to fulfil the unfulfillable mission of leaving the EU without it involving considerable damage to the economy will actually succeed only in destroying the Conservative Party as a major political force.  

The Labour Party, meanwhile, seems finally to be coming off the fence to endorse a second referendum, finally overcoming the reluctance of the leadership (including Jeremy Corbyn) to alienate Labour Leave voters, and, in Corbyn’s case, I think, to continue to cling to a fanciful notion of a socialist Britain somehow freed, rather than crippled, by leaving the EU, a tired old fantasy that somehow ignores how globally inter-connected we all are these days, and that, while there are both good and bad aspects of that, the movement of goods, people and ideas across borders delivers more than it destroys. 

Nevertheless, although it now looks probable that there has been a swing from Leave to Remain in the 72% of the population who voted in the EU referendum, when 52% voted Leave, and 48% voted Remain, the wild card is still the 28% of the population who didn’t vote in the referendum — and who are mostly included in the 63% of the registered electorate who didn’t vote on Thursday. In a second referendum, it remains possible that our rabid tabloid media, plus whatever dark forces are funding Nigel Farage, will prevail again. 

One way out of that disastrous future would be for a second referendum to require our departure from the EU to be endorsed by a two-thirds majority, as is normal in referendums dealing with major constitutional change, and as should have happened in 2016, when, instead, David Cameron’s idiotic hubris set this whole train wreck in operation. 

However, another way would be for MPs — the sovereign power in the UK that Leavers apparently wanted to reinstate — to come together to scrap Brexit via legislation explaining that it is impossible to implement without fundamentally destroying our economy, and then calling a general election, secure in the knowledge that they have put their principles before party politics or their own self-preservation. 

In conclusion, I’d also like to dwell briefly on the two aspects of the European elections that cheered me the most. The first is the success of the Green Party, whose vote rose to 12.1% of the total, up from 7.9% in 2014. The Greens now have seven MEPs, up from three, and while many centrist Remainers voted for the Lib Dems, those more left-leaning and radical obviously voted Green, not just because of their support for remaining in the EU, but also because they’re the only party committed to tackling the true crisis of modern civilisation: not the delusional nostalgia and isolationism of the Brexiteers, but the exact opposite — the forward-looking, global, youthful advocacy for immediate and profound system change as the only way of averting the worst effects of an ongoing man-made global environmental catastrophe, whose urgency has, of course, recently been highlighted to great effect by Extinction Rebellion, by Greta Thunberg and the school strikes for climate — and even by Sir David Attenborough in his powerful documentary, ‘Climate Change: The Facts.’

I’d also like to big up London, my home, the only area in England where the Brexit Party didn’t come first (they came third, after the Lib Dems and Labour), and where the Tories were wiped out, losing their two seats and dropping to 7.9% of the vote, down from 22.5% in 2014.

If, despite all of the above, Brexit really does go ahead, London should surely be as entitled as Scotland to demand independence from a country hell-bent on re-making itself as a permanent “hostile environment” for foreigners, run largely by the US, China and the Gulf countries who already own so much of our land and our businesses, with public school boys acting as well-paid pimps, and with poverty levels that would make 19th century social reformers turn in their graves.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from six years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the resistance continues.

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19 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, analysing the elections to the European Parliament in the UK, and pointing out how important it is to note that those voting for parties campaigning to remain in the EU outnumbered the Brexit Party (and UKIP’s rump vote) by 40.4% to 34.9%. That said, 63% of the electorate didn’t vote, so we don’t know what they currently think, but it seems pretty clear that a majority of British people now think that Brexit shouldn’t go ahead.

    The preferred way out seems to be a second referendum, which Labour now seems to be endorsing, but I have always sounded a note of caution about that option, because of the unpredictability of voters. Ideally, I believe, MPs should scrap it definitively, and then call a general election. I can but dream, eh?

    The Tories, meanwhile, will hopefully destroy themselves as they fight over a new leader and the irreconcilable differences in the party between rabid Brexiteers and centrist Remainers tear them apart. Again, I can but dream.

  2. Tom says...

    One result of this? The Lib Dems are finally starting to recover from when Nick Clegg did the coalition with Cameron. Now Cameron’s doing “consulting work” for a UK hamburger chain and Clegg is a managing partner in a Lib Dem think tank.

    I agree that the Brexiter Party doesn’t have enough momentum to destroy the Tories, Labour and others. It’s just that corporate media and even the good old BBC are desperate to keep the Farage hype going as long as possible.

  3. Tom says...

    Does the Brexit Party have enough momentum to do away with the Tories, Labour and the others? No.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, the mainstream media largely created the Farage phenomenon, Tom. It’s difficult to remember now, as we’ve had elections six years in a row, but back in 2014 UKIP did very well under Farage in the European elections, and the mainstream media gave him a lot of coverage. My thought at the time was that they – and the BBC in particular – were treating the growing racism and xenophobia of parts of the populace as something zeitgeist-y, something that needed to be covered properly, but failing to take into account that they were creating a platform for him, and were actually abdicating their responsibility to consistently challenge far-right leaders, and not to allow their poison to be disseminated without being properly challenged.

    In the run-up to 2015’s General Election, Farage’s persistent presence in the mainstream media would have made it appear, to anyone dropping in on the UK out of nowhere, that he was actually the Prime Minister, even though UKIP have only ever had one elected MP – and it wasn’t even Farage, whose gravy train, with some great irony, has always been the EU Parliament. And by 2016, of course, and the referendum, the entire mainstream media failed to counter the Leave campaign’s spin and lies by properly analysing what leaving would actually entail, leading to the mess we’ve been in for the last three years.

    Throughout all this time, of course, a great part was also played by the right-wing tabloid media – particularly the Mail and the Sun – and of course the news channels also regularly run newspaper reviews, in which they continue to present these newspapers’ views as somehow credible, when they should be thoroughly disowning them.

    Mostly, though, it’s the platform given to Farage by the BBC in particular – and that is also readily apparent in the make-up of Question Time’s panel and audience members – that has been the most flagrant abdication of liberal journalistic integrity. Fascists – and right-wingers in general who are drifting to the far-right – should be starved of oxygen, not given a licence payers’ mandate to spout their filth, and I do think they should always – always – be robustly challenged. I note nowadays, however, that outright lies often end up being broadcast without those uttering them being challenged at all.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    No they don’t, Tom, and, of course, if they stand a raft of candidates, backed by wherever Farage is getting his money from, a lot of them will be revealed to be thoroughly unsavoury characters who lack Farage’s ability to pretend that he’s just a bloke down the pub. They may, however, if there’s a General Election before Brexit is resolved, split the vote sufficiently to break the unfair dominance of the Tories (between 1979 and 1997, and from 2010 to now) and Labour (between 1997 and 2010) that is so fundamentally unrepresentative of what people actually want and vote for (and that also encourages voter apathy), and lead to a situation in which we get proportional representation and an end to the travesty of winner-takes-it-all government, which, primarily, seems to promote an unhealthy arrogance amongst those elected to rule.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    John Hare write:

    I’ve got to say Andy that I think that BBC graphic is pretty misleading in that it excludes the Conservative and Labour Parties, both of which are pro Brexit, even though Labour look a lot more like a pro-Remain Party in reality. Put them in and there’s a pretty clear majority for Brexit. Even if we accept that quite a few people who voted Labour or Conservative either aren’t Brexiteers or don’t really care much one way or the other, the huge wave of Bremain that some (you?) are expecting, or hoping for, simply isn’t there. In fact if we look at England on its own & allow the dodgy BBC ‘pro/anti’ split, then Brexit Party + UKIP vs Lib-Dems + Greens + Change split 48:52 for Remain – and again that’s fairly flimsy evidence for some great change of heart.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, John. I hope you’re well. I have to say that I think many of Thursday’s Labour and Tory voters were Remainers, as Tory leavers, in particular, fled the party in droves to vote for the Brexit Party, and I suspect many Labour Leavers didn’t vote at all. But we’re all a bit in the dark, really, aren’t we, as polling no longer seems to be entirely reliable either. That said, I’d think that a 5% swing from Leave to Remain is possible, and would be enough – and, of course, every day that old people die and 17 year olds turn 18 also has a tendency to increase the Remain vote!

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Plus, John, while looking at England in isolation is troubling, we’re not yet an isolated country, shorn of the Union, and the pro-Remain impact of Scotland continues to be significant.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Alexander Jamal wrote:

    If I had my way I’d tear the building down … if I was a mole in the the ground, I’d root that mountain down but enough of the folksy metaphors, truly it’s time we admitted the truth on both sides. Farage wants to screw us from one direction and the EU from the other. Take a look at Ireland: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10156001685841050&id=642861049&sfnsn=mo

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    David Knopfler wrote:

    Alexander, I see zero evidence that the EU, which is anyway us, wants to screw anyone.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I don’t really see it either, Alexander. Obviously I see problems with the EU in some ways, but not enough to want to scupper the 60% of our country’s business that is with the EU, or to stop the movement of workers throughout the EU. I always said that if people had a problem with immigration, the best way to resolve it would be to destroy the economy!

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Alexander Jasml wrote:

    Ireland – A Democracy or Corpocracy? https://youtu.be/dpjWhZk0mvw

    Try watching this as a starter. But you do know one of the major problems is that EU competition laws will prevent a lot of what Labour would like to do? Also that the EU is essentially committed to austerity, Europe wide?

    The trouble with being both anti-austerity and pro-EU
    https://www.redpepper.org.uk/the-trouble-with-being-both-anti-austerity-and-pro-eu/

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the links, Alexander, but I do fundamentally think that crippling British business by opting out of our main trading bloc is insane, and also that taking an anti-immigrant isolationist stance is fundamentally unhealthy. And if we leave, I doubt that any Labour project to swing the UK to the left – if Labour won a general Election – can succeed with a wrecked economy. The likelier outcome is that we become even more of a vassal state than we already are – to the US, to China, and to the Gulf countries who already own so much of our land and our businesses.
    The EU needs reforming from within, and while that may appear difficult, or even impossible, think about the most pressing concern right now – united action to tackle the already ongoing environmental catastrophe. It can happen Europe-wide, but only if, across Europe, people are prepared to fight for it. I’d genuinely like to see us stay, and then to see the people of Europe mobilise in Brussels and Strasbourg to demand the urgent system change that is actually what we need. I’d be up for that!

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Richard Alexander wrote:

    The fog-of-politics is pretty dense for the immediate future. Until the Tory Party sorts out its leadership battle and the new PM decides which way to go forward, I wouldn’t like to predict any outcome in either a second referendum or general election.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Fair enough, Richard. I’m particularly interested to see if the Tories can avoid destroying themselves, with the centrists clearly not interested in even tolerating Boris Johnson, while he and other opportunists are just as determined to pander to the separatist right to get the top job.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    David Knopfler wrote:

    Greens up to seven from three I thought?

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, thanks for the correction, David.

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    David Knopfler wrote:

    Andy. a good night for them … More than most of the tactical voting sites recommended or predicted. They did even better in Germany and elsewhere. It’s a party for the next generation that could rinse everything else away, if not stopped by the oil cartels.

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    It’s the battleground of now, David. As I explained recently, it took me years to get to the point where I knew there was no going back. That came when I met Dahr Jamail at RT in New York for Chris Hedges’ show, and Dahr was promoting his new book ‘The End of Ice’ and his conversation with Chris was so devastating that I knew I couldn’t hide from the truth any longer. We’re at a crossroads. The oil cartels’ route leads to genuinely almost unthinkable environmental devastation within even our lifetimes. The other route is Greta Thunberg, XR, the Greens. No other party gives a sh*t about the urgency. They don’t do urgency.
    That recent article is here: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2019/05/09/i-pledge-my-allegiance-to-the-struggle-for-survival-against-catastrophic-climate-change/

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer (The State of London).
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