The UK Independence Party have stormed to victory in the 2014 European Parliamentary Elections, putting 24 MEPs into the buildings in Brussels and Strasbourg.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage described the night’s results as a “political earthquake”, and said that his party had replaced the Liberal Democrats as the third party in British politics.
Indeed, the LibDems left with just 1 MEP, securing just under 7% of the vote; falling behind even the Greens, who took 8% and 3 MEPs. It is a stark contrast to UKIP’s dominance, who securing 27.5% of the vote, beating back Labour with 25%, and the Conservatives at 23.9%. It was the first time the Conservatives had been pushed into third place in a nation-wide election.
Following the result, Farage noted the implications of the election on the three main parties (Conservatives, Labour, and LibDems), and that “UKIP is going to win seats in Westminster next year”.
The consequences for the leader’s of the latter two have already been highlighted in the post-election coverage. Nick Clegg has gone from the smiling, young-looking chap that he was when he shook hands with David Cameron on the steps of No. 10, way back in 2010; to a dishevelled, worn, tired, and defeated leader – whose members of his own party are calling for his resignation. Ed Miliband has today been called upon by his party to offer an in-out referendum.
Graham Stringer MP said that there was an evident anti-Europe trend in Sunday’s results, and “unless [Labour] have a policy response to that, which has to be as a minimum to give people a referendum, then we are going to lose votes”. Farage himself said that if Labour did not set-out their stance on Europe come conference time around September, Miliband would become UKIP’s greatest “recruiting sergeant”.
Both Clegg and Miliband have rejected their respective calls.
The sudden move to the right was not limited to just the United Kingdom. Although the media did report that France had elected the far-right party Front National, they failed to acknowledge the other far-right parties who got into the Parliamentary buildings on the continent.
The National Democratic Party won just 1% of the German vote, but managed to get 1 MEP elected. In Greece, 3 MEPs from far-right party Golden Dawn were also elected. Both parties are described as neo-nazi, and anti-immigrant. Other parties including the Danish People’s Party, the Netherlands’ Party for Freedom, Austrian Freedom, and Lega Nord of Italy are all now represented in the European Parliament.
It is evident from this trend across Europe that there is great resentment towards the free movement of people within the EU, and many are seeing it as a threat to their way of life.
That was certainly the message being echoed in interviews with people in the media. “Morning Call” on BBC Scotland received its first three phone-ins from UKIP voters who said they were concerned about immigration, and said they would likely vote UKIP come the UK General Election next May. Something Farage will be very pleased about.
Turnout in the UK was just 34%, and it is known that often extremist parties come to the fore in times of low turnout. Nevertheless, the message is still clear, and cannot be ignored.
This is certainly something Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, should pay attention to, as UKIP claimed its first political victory in Scotland with David Coburn winning 1 seat.
However, Nicola Sturgeon stated the results North and South of the border were “significantly different”, as UKIP picked up just 10.4% of the vote in Scotland, and reiterated that the only way to secure Scotland’s future in the EU was by voting ‘Yes’ in September’s referendum (a line we now seem to be hearing in response to everything that happens).
Nevertheless, in my discussions with people on the street, it is clear that the SNP might be shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to independence.
Many feel that immigration is a massive problem, and one woman I spoke with said that it was the main reason why she was concerned about voting “Yes”.
The SNP have a very pro-immigration stance, arguing that more workers are required in order to allow Scotland’s economy to flourish. The same would be had in an independent Scotland. This argument may be extremely damaging for the SNP in their hopes of achieving a “Yes” vote come September. What one gentleman said the Scottish government should be doing is “training up our young folk to fill the jobs, not folk from [the rest of the EU]”.
What Sunday’s results told us is that tolerance is running thin in Europe. The media summarised the other members’ results as “Greece voted for the far-left, France voted far-right, and Germany and Italy stayed pro-Europe”. Yes, those were the main victories, but it is the tremors created by the far-right victories that will turn these ripples into waves in the future.