Watching the televised coverage of the European Parliamentary elections you could be forgiven for thinking it was a relatively neutral night for the left and right. Certainly, the possibility for spinning it that way existed, which is what the BBC, Sky, and others did over the course of the evening.
But make no mistake, the populist/nationalist right were the big winners last night.
That’s not to say there weren’t advances made by the Greens and Liberal Democrats across Europe yesterday. Of course there were, just take a look at the new make-up of the European Parliament:
The big losers were the centre-left and centre-right blocs. The Socialists and Democrats (yes, those are centre-left in Europe!) and the European People’s Party which is at times Eurosceptic but never enough so to urge leaving the EU or making any major reforms to it. These are the status quo parties.
The Brexit Party in Britain (represented in teal, above) becomes the single largest party from one country in the whole parliament. Quite extraordinary. While the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, led by the would-be tyrant Guy Verhofstadt, finds itself with new relevance in a chamber with no status quo majority anymore.
But the spin from Britain’s establishment especially has been nothing short of remarkable, even for them.
Between the news networks and the political left, they’re trying to push the line that it was Remain, not Brexit, that surged last night.
How could they reach such a perverse conclusion?
Mostly by pretending Britain’s Labour Party is an outwardly ‘Remain’ crew, which no doubt it will now turn into. But Labour certainly didn’t go into the 2017 elections with that in its manifesto. It also demurred from committing either way ahead of this set of elections. In other words, many people still voted Labour (for a plethora of reasons) while being committed to Brexit.
Lets look at what Richard Corbett, one of the few Labour MEPs who managed to keep his seat, claims:
#Europeanelections 2019 : Seats GB
TOTAL: 37 (10 more than last time)
TOTAL: 33 (10 fewer than last time)
=> clear swing from Leave to Remain !
— Richard Corbett CBE FRSA (@RichardGCorbett) May 27, 2019
Corbett reckons Labour and its 10 seats can be counted as “Remain”. But look at Labour’s last major manifesto, from 2017:
“Labour accepts the referendum result and a Labour government will put the national interest first.”
That doesn’t sound like Remain, does it?
Jeremy Corbyn himself has traditionally been a Eurosceptic, albeit for… uh… national socialist reasons, and though I have no doubt a man of such lack of convictions will now cave to his party’s calls for a second referendum.
But a second referendum still doesn’t put Labour in the Remain camp for this election past. At best, Corbett should be leaving Labour – which tried to ride both Remain and Leave horses at the election – out of the equation entirely. Or split their votes down the middle.
Doing either of these puts the Leave camp back in the lead. You could also look at it like this:
For those who claim remain supporting parties won #EUelections2019 in the UK:
Parties supporting #Brexit:
Brexit Party – 31.7%
Labour – 14.1%
Conservatives – 8.7%
UKIP – 3.6%
Liberal Democrats – 18.6%
Green – 11.1%
SNP – 3.4%
Change UK – 2.8%
Total: 35.9% pic.twitter.com/5EC3h1yPld
— Bow Group (@bowgroup) May 27, 2019
In reality, both sides are spinning. The situation compared to the 2016 referendum is more likely broadly unchanged: a 52/48 per cent split amongst the electorate, which would almost certainly be borne out again in any so-called “second” referendum.
But Britain has already had five votes on this matter now:
- 2014: UKIP shocks the establishment by winning the European Parliamentary Elections
- 2015: The Conservative Party wins a majority by pledging an EU referendum
- 2016: 17.4 million Britons vote to leave the European Union
- 2017: A general election sees 80 per cent support for parties promising Brexit
- 2019: The Brexit Party wins EU elections
For ordinary Britons, this process has now not only gone on for too long, it is also getting in the way of other national priorities: defense, health, jobs, the environment, housing, crime, and more.
The politically minded will be aware Brexit affects all these things, like the domino poster that used to do the rounds:
But for the general public, enough is enough.
Yes, of course there is “Brexit fatigue”, but not because people stopped believing in it. But rather because the political establishment has willfully changed Brexit from a radical, liberating cause into a boring and self-harmful process. It was completely intentional on their part.
They (the media, centrist politicians, the civil service) believed if they could turn Brexit into a boogeyman at worst, or a harmful snoozefest at best, they would avoid a repeat of 2014. But they were just delivered one.
Now Nigel Farage and his band of Brexiteers have to capitalize on the momentum, because honestly the votes have only still been loaned to them from a lot of people.
The upcoming Peterborough by-election will be a test of mettle for the Brexit Party, especially given its lack of on-the-ground infrastructure.
If they had more boots on the ground over the past 6 weeks, there’s no doubt the Brexit Party could have topped 40 per cent in the polls last night. An immediate infrastructure assessment and mass deployment of resources to Peterborough is key for the party to return its first Member of Parliament to Westminster.
If they can’t do it – regardless the reason – Nigel will struggle to convince any one that they have the momentum to continue on into a general election. This includes donors.
In other words, Peterborough is make or break for the Brexit Party. And it is just around the corner.
Voters go to the polls in the special election on June 6th.
Nothing but victory will suffice.
Raheem Kassam is the Global Editor-in-Chief for Human Events
N.B. If you’re wondering why Nigel left UKIP and want more backstory on that, we’ve got you covered, here.