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What's Going On with the Euro Elections and Should I Care?

An FAQ about what the heck is going on with tomorrow's EU election.

by Gavin Haynes
22 May 2019, 2:32pm

A demonstrator in Parliament Square (Joe / Alamy Stock Photo)

I Hear The Brexit Party are Winning These Elections. What Do They Win?

In a way, sod all. They’ll get about 30 seats in the EU Parliament, out of the UK’s 73 – which they may not even take up if Brexit is wrapped by the end of June, or else will lose after the 31st of October final deadline.

But Farage has won a wider political battle. He wants to "change politics for good". By which he means "replace the Tory Party with a purified Tory party called the Brexit Party". He will be off to a flying start if he also wins the Peterborough by-election, due on the 6th of June. Which he probably will. But remember that it’s always a Herculean uphill struggle for new parties to break into Westminster. UKIP won 4 million votes in 2014, but because those were spread so widely they only ever gained two MPs.

What Do the Elections Mean for Brexit?

Next week, Theresa May is putting her deal back to Parliament a mind-bending fourth time – but even many of those Brexiteers who voted for it last time won’t now, because they’d rather wait for a new PM to wipe the slate clean.

Theresa May is still valiantly trying to get her hated deal through. Last night she announced that she will attach the option of a second referendum to the fourth vote on her deal. So if they vote for the May Deal, MPs then get to vote on a confirmatory referendum on the Deal – notice the technicality: they don’t automatically get a referendum, they get to vote on whether to have one.

A second referendum was a key goal for Labour, so you might expect them to vote for May’s deal, but they’re not taking the bait. Remember that May’s deal doesn’t include a customs union – another key Labour red line.

Overall, the EU elections will make a hard Brexit much more likely. A third of the electorate voting explicitly for WTO Rules means that any Tory replacement to May will have to take heed of their bravado. Farage has demanded that, if they win, The Brexit Party are given a seat at the government’s Brussels negotiating table. That won’t happen, but with so much support, he will be steering the Tory Party from the backseat.

What Do the Elections Mean for Labour?

With Labour’s policy a tricksy fudge designed to appease both Remainers and Leavers, Jeremy Corbyn has given only one major interview – to Andrew Marr – and generally kept a low profile. Labour’s vote share has collapsed to 13 percent, and they are in real trouble with The Brexit Party in their former stronghold of Wales. But Corbyn is still committed to his key aim: making sure the Tories mess this one up entirely on their own, then swooping in to pick up the pieces at a General Election.

What Do the Elections Mean for the Other Parties?

The Lib Dems are finally living the life they’ve always dreamed of. Back from the dead, and up from 6 percent vote share in the last Euro elections in 2014, to 17 percent, all on a manifesto entitled "Bollocks To Brexit".

The Greens are still there. Doing slightly better than the Tories, on 10 percent. Change UK? Better check in the bins out back. UKIP? Don’t bother checking out back.

What Do the Elections Mean for the Tories?

Armageddon. According to the best data we have – a YouGov poll with 7,000 respondents – the Conservatives are sitting in fifth place, on 9 percent. They look set to plunge to their worst results in 180 years. For scale: the lowest they have ever sunk before – ever – is 23 percent. They have broken their vote machine, and that may take years to recover.

That means that the prospect of a new PM is accelerating. So far, Theresa May has only said she will "set out a timetable" in June that will eventually lead to her resignation. But if the results are this bad – in single figures – we’ll probably see panic among Tory MPs desperate to hang onto their seats. The Second Referendum shenanigans definitely haven’t helped the Tory mood – even Cabinet ministers are now trying to hasten her departure.

Who Will the New PM Be?

Boris. Among party members, he’s streaks ahead of everyone else. And in a two-person runoff – which is what the field will eventually be whittled down to – he beats all comers.

Of course, the game is still young. Dominic Raab and Sajid Javid are the best-placed challengers, but with over a dozen contenders it could be that someone obscure slingshots to stardom after a big speech or a bold pledge. Alternatively, Tory MPs – who actually dislike Boris far more than Tory voters, and worry about his capacity to reach out beyond the South East – may gang up to knock him out before he gets to the final duo. That won’t be easy, though.

Why Would Anyone Still Want to Be PM? Haven’t They Seen What Happened to the Last One?

Psychologists call this the Illusory Superiority Effect. Basically: imagine you were born as Dominic Raab. Well there you go.

Will There Still Be Milkshake Attacks After These Elections?

Oh, there’s still an outside chance of civil war, my friend. The British public’s growing appetite for lowkey political violence is seeing to that.

What Do These Elections Mean for the Future of the EU?

With a third of seats due to go to anti-EU populists, it seems like the days of the Commission centralising more and more powers for itself may be behind us. Europe will have to act more like nation-states co-operating and less like a nation-state of its own.

On the wider European political scene, things are going to get super-wacky. Like a double-header of Eurotrash on DMT. Judging by the numbers, Italy’s Matteo Salvini now seems two years away from being their first hard-right Prime Minister since Mussolini. In France, good polling for the anti-migrant Marine Le Pen puts her right back on track for their 2022 Presidential election. Watch out for their cheese-monkey 23-year-old rising star Jordan Bardella as her future replacement. Of course, there are other populisms too: in Germany, the Greens are dominating.

@gavhaynes