Since I always feel smarter after reading his comments, I asked Tony Jay if he could share some information with us:
So, I’m sitting there, early hours of Monday morning, chugging pints of home-brew and alternating between watching BBC One’s coverage of the European Election results unfolding in glorious bursts of multi-colour infotainment and posting increasingly incoherent comments about it here at the Jackal Pound. My phone reaches over and taps me on the shoulder. “You got a message”, it sez. Apparently, Anne-Laurie – who I can only presume was three days into a poppers and absinthe binge at this point – thought that asking me to do a guest post on Britain’s latest self-inflicted humiliation would be a swell idea. Clearly this is a mistake, and I apologise, but in the immortal words of one or more of the Rolling Stones, you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes, well, you get this nonsense instead.
First a little background to set the scene. You may or may not know that 2016 saw more than one episode of hostile Russian interference in the electoral systems of a western democracy. You good people were blessed with the constantly weeping pustule of venomous criminality known as President Donald J Trump, while we went one better by voting to leave the world’s largest alliance of advanced economies on the grounds that those blasted foreigners were holding us back, stealing our money and stopping us from getting it on with all of the sexy all of the time. Something like that anyway, the lying shitweasels behind the campaign to Leave scattered like pinstriped cockroaches the second the result of the vote came in and have been deliberately vague about the actual reasons for and tangible benefits of leaving the European Union ever since. We were supposed to Leave back at the end of March, but didn’t, because three years after the Referendum not a single person involved with negotiating Britain’s exit from the EU had been able to find a version of Brexit (fucking awful name, sounds like a breakfast cereal designed to soften painful stools) that doesn’t put a bullet through the head of the national economy and (much more importantly) leave them and their political party holding the bag when everything goes 28 Days Later.
Since we’re still in the EU and will be until Parliament agrees a Withdrawal Act (short version, not going to happen) or October 31st, when the current extension runs out, we’ve had to take part in elections to the European Parliament. Because this is modern Britain, and because the Government of the day is simultaneously woefully divided into rival factions and unified by an animus towards doing anything remotely helpful for anyone without a bank balance of 7 digits and above, only the very bare minimum of effort was put into organising the elections. The general feeling coming from the Government side was “If we pretend it’s not happening we don’t have to talk about it”, leaving the various factions and parties on either side of the Leave/Remain divide free to turn the whole exercise into a proxy Referendum on how the country feels about Brexit. Which I’m basically okay with. Britain’s European Elections have always been mind-numbingly dull affairs characterised by endless variations of the stock phrases. “Blah Blah defending Britain’s interests” and “Blah Blah working with our friends on the continent”. They never say what they actually intend to do as part of the EU, and no one much really cared. Even after the rise of UKIP and the injection of tabloid-fuelled Europhobia into the national psyche the only thing that really changed come election time was the addition of stock phrase three, “Blah Blah sending a message to Brussels” to the mix. With the forces of Leave resolutely opposed to asking the country if it thought, maybe, on reflection, that it would quite like to start unshitting the bed by choosing to Remain after all, then a proxy Referendum on that question would be better than nothing.
So, what happened?
Okay, first things first, the pundits and experts were very clear about what they though was going to happen. Endless vox-pops and opinion polls all agreed on a few salient facts.
Firstly, that the governing Tory Party of outgoing PM Theresa May was going to be brutally punished by its voters for ‘failing’ to enact Brexit. In the Conservative Clubs and underage massage parlours that are their natural habitat the typical Tory voter had no time for all the namby-pamby nonsense coming from Leftist front groups like the Confederation of British Industry, the Bank of England and MI6 warning about how damaging Brexit itself would be to British interests and how utterly, comprehensively disastrous it would be for the UK to drop out of the EU without a negotiated withdrawal deal. They knew better, you see, having graduated with honours from the school of Right-Wing Tabloid bollocks and taken a Masters at the University of Right-Wing Broadsheet pomposity. They wanted their Brexit, preferably without any kind of deal that meant shaking the hand of greasy foreigners, and if the Tories weren’t going to give it to them they’d vote for someone who bloody well would.
Secondly, Labour’s policy of ‘constructive ambiguity’ over its Brexit policy, promising to ‘honour’ the 2016 referendum while simultaneously holding out hope that, should every other avenue be blocked, a 2nd Referendum would be the only way forward, had not only run its course but was now actively damaging Labour’s relationship with both Leave and Remain voters, neither of whom felt that the Party was offering them enough of what they wanted. The local elections earlier in the month had given a taste of what that might look like, with big swings amongst mostly Remain voters away from Labour and towards the out-and-out ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ parties like the Lib-Dems, Scottish Nationalists and the Greens. Labour campaigners were loudly complaining that they couldn’t sell this policy at the doorstep without a three-hour Powerpoint presentation and the aid of a full-time marriage councillor. It was looking like a recipe for an electoral kicking that could, depending on how Labour responded, set a precedent for voter-abandonment that would impact Labour’s plan to force an early General Election…. unpleasantly.
Thirdly, the Return of the Frog King. Nigel Farage had fled Britain like a scalded pervert when his wildly profitable grifting operation cum Russo-American disruption campaign accidently stumbled upon enough bubbling racism to ‘win’ the Referendum, leaving his UK Independence Party to topple gracelessly towards its inevitable destiny as the home for really, really racist bastards who aren’t young or tattooed enough for the English Defence League. After bouncing around the Accent-for-Hire shores of the Wingnutosphere for a while he apparently signed a Blood Pact with Stevie “Two-Shirts, Both Brown” Bannon to head up the British arm of his Greater European Fascist Axis. This new Brexit Party was basically just a personality cult based around Farage, with really sketchy funding and a deliberate policy of having no policy other than being called ‘The Brexit Party’, a social-media driven electoral middle-finger to ‘real’ politics, a vehicle for single issue protest votes with a candidate roll that looked like it had simply been copied from an average person’s “Worst Dinner Party Guest List Ever” Twitter stream. By only entering the electoral battlefield a few weeks before the actual vote Farage avoided most of the in depth coverage that could – if the British media got off its collective backside – expose his operation for what it was, and the pundits were postulating that his Brexit Party was on course to top the polls with an estimated 37% to 40% of the vote.
Election Day rolled around. The most notable part of it was the number of European residents in Britain who were denied the right to vote by a toxic mix of Government-led ineptitude, local Government’s without the resources or the time to properly process paperwork, and fuckwit electoral officers being brazenly xenophobic to people with verboten accents. Britain voted on Thursday, but because we don’t do exit polls and the rest of Europe wouldn’t be voting until the weekend (uncivilised, don’t they know the rural folk only come to Town on market day?) it was all a bit of a drawn-out orgy of anticipation until results started coming out late on Sunday night.
By the time the last results had come in and the UK’s share of the 751 seat EU Parliament had been decided, things…. were not that different, apart from the things that were.
Here’s the raw figures. For the pro-Leave side of the debate the Brexit Party gathered 31.6% of the national vote, which is considerably less than the pundits were expecting, and bagged 29 MEPs. The Conservatives got 9.1% of the vote and 4 MEPs, a drop of 14.8% and 15 MEPs from 2014. The UKIP vote went down from 26.6% in 2014 and 24 MEPs to 3.3% and zero MEPs.
On the pro-Remain side, the Liberal Democrats and Greens got 20.3% and 12.1% respectively, which gave them 16 and 7 MEPs. The Scottish Nationalists took 3.6% and 3 MEPs. Plaid Cymry (the Welsh Nationalists) got a whole 1% and a single MEP. Change UK, the breakaway group of anti-Corbyn Labour MPs and anti-Brexit Tory MPs failed to win a single MEP, but they did get 3.3% of the national vote.
Labour dropped to 14.1% of the vote from the 24.4% it got in 2014, losing half of its 20 MEPs. I guess the campaigners on the doorstep weren’t exaggerating.
A few points. Obviously, if you add together all of the vote percentages you can make a few concrete assumptions. The openly pro-Remain parties together took 40% of the vote, kicking the hot shit out of the pro-No Deal Brexit parties’ 34.9%. Yes, it’s shocking and horrifying that at least 34.9% of the people who could be arsed to vote think that just tearing Britain root and branch out of the EU would be fine and dandy, but let’s face it, there are a lot of fucking idiots everywhere and at least the non-idiots outnumber them. Give the vast majority of the Tory vote to the pro-Brexit side and a smaller percentage of the Labour vote to the pro-Remain side (because why not?) then it comes out at about 47% for Leave and 50% for Remain.
Brexit lost this election, anyone who says differently is just lying.
Watching the results come in I went through the same stages every time. Starting with “Dammit! How did Brexit win?” to looking at the change from the last election and realising “Brexit just sucked up the UKIP vote and less than half of the Tories, that’s not surprising” and ending with, “Hang on, they’ve just got the old UKIP MEP slots and taken one or two from the Tories, nothing has really changed”. In an election where the pro-Brexit side was calling on their voters to send a message…. That didn’t really happen.
Only 37% of the electorate could be bothered voting. That’s not great, but on the other hand these were the people who really give a shit about the topic of Brexit. Farage’s neo-fascist cult only got around 12% of the whole electorate, I can live with that.
Fewer people voted Brexit Party than took the time to sign the recent petition to revoke Article 50 (the bit of EU law that lets a member nation leave the Union) and cancel the whole thing. Pro-Brexit wankers were jeering that ‘only’ 6 million or so could be found to sign a petition to end Brexit. They couldn’t even get that many to the polls for an actual vote. Shove that up your “Will of the People” and smoke it you bunch of reckless feckers.
Fewer people voted in this entire election than voted Leave in 2016. That’s a huge, huge number of people who obviously aren’t the dedicated, driven British Nationalists they’ve been painted as by pro-Brexit enthusiasts. Would they come out again on the same side in a 2nd Referendum? Are they staying away from the polls because they think they made a huge mistake in 2016? Let’s find out.
What does this mean for the future?
The Tories are in a really, really bad place. When you hear candidates for May’s soon-to-be vacated throne talking about what “the people” are telling them, the people they’re talking about are the only people they ever give two hoots about come election time, their voters, and what they overwhelmingly want is to Brexit ASAP with No Deal. How far are the candidates for Tory leader going to have to go making promises about the hardness of their Brexit when they’ve got Farage’s cult always a bit further to the extreme luring their voters to the Dark(er) Side? If they weren’t the biggest Party in Parliament this would all be hilarious. But they are. So the best we can hope for is that the new Tory leader who does emerge is so way out there towards a No Deal Brexit that a chunk of the Party bolts for Independent status or joins whatever is left of Change UK, costing the Tories their status as biggest Party and forcing a General Election.
Labour are in a bind too. The policy they followed this far kept the Party together long enough for the Tories to self-destruct, but the local and European elections have made it plain that the Parliamentary phase of all this is no longer the thing Labour’s leadership should be concentrating on. If they don’t come out ASAP as the anti-Brexit Party their membership overwhelmingly want then they are not going to win the next General Election anyway, and Corbyn’s project of democratising the Party decision-making apparatus and returning it to its roots as a party of social justice and worker’s rights will be vulture-food. It certainly looks like this lesson has been well and truly learned, with the string of recent announcements that Labour officially won’t accept any withdrawal deal that doesn’t include a 2nd Referendum. Will it be enough to win back enough Remain voters to offset the hit they’re going to take in Leave strongholds? Pointless worrying about it, as it’s not like there’s any other option.
The Scottish Nationalists have cemented themselves as the Party Scotland’s Remain-voting majority trust, with the Tories booted and Labour eclipsed. How this translates to a General Election, and beyond that to the chances of a 2nd Scottish Independence referendum depends a lot on what happens with Brexit. One thing is for sure, if a Leave-voting England drags Scotland out of the EU against its will there’ll be hell to pay. OTOH, should Labour need Scots Nationalist votes to reach a majority in a future hung Parliament you can bet your sweet ass another vote on Independence will be a deal-breaker for Edinburgh.
The Lib-Dems and Greens have done extremely well by planting their flags firmly on the summit of Mount Remain, the disorganised conmen and conwomen of Change UK less so. How the two main Remain parties are going to handle the tactical voting co-operation vital to maximising their continued success in a General Election is… problematic, say the least. In a 2nd Referendum it doesn’t matter, but when they’re competing for the same pool of voters in a First Past the Post electoral system they are in real danger of cock-blocking each other and letting the forces of fuckery sneak in on a unified minority vote. This issue will get even more complicated now that Labour is joining them in the Open Remain cockpit. A lot of Lib-Dem (and to a lesser extent Green) energy has been expended smearing Labour as just as much a pro-Brexit Party as the Tories. They keep that up and Labour will have no compunction in reminding voters good and hard that they only reason the Tories have been in a position to impose Austerity and Brexit on the country is because the Lib Dems sold their soul and joined a Coalition with them in 2010. It could get very nasty, very quickly.
As for Change UK, whatever dudes, you always sucked anyway. Long-term they’ll probably fold into the Lib-Dems, but in the short-term I’ll expect them to hang around so that Tory moderates have somewhere ideologically squishy to land when and if they jump ship from Boris’ Big Adventure.
The Brexit Party is celebrating its ‘big win’ right now, but for all their bluster there’s no escaping the cold, hard reality that they’re just UKIP with a million or so extra disgruntled Tories tacked on. Farage is babbling about them being the inevitable winners of a future General Election, but he said more or less the same thing about UKIP back in the day and they never amounted to more than a fart in a bathtub when the real contest came around. Now that the dust is settling over the European Elections he’s going to be under more and more pressure to say what his Party’s policies are on all of the issues facing this Disunited Kingdom, and even after 2016 I can’t see his toxic stew of personality cultism, libertarian voodoo economics and race-baiting xenophobia getting much purchase outside of the tiny minority who’ve already bought into it. And that’s before his deeply disturbing links to the global far-Right and its demanding moneymen get front-paged day after day. I could be wrong, but it’s entirely possible that this is Evil Mr Toad’s high-water mark, and sooner rather than later the knives will be out for him.
Okay, I think that covers everything. Let’s chat about the Democratic Primaries and the argument for Impeachment instead.