March 6, 2014 Leave a comment
This May will see the eighth European Parliamentary elections in the UK. These are usually seen as chance to kick the Government of the day, as a combination of apathy and the perception of irrelevance allows some voters register their disapproval.
The irrelevance argument does run counter to those who argue that Brussels makes the majority of our laws. Apathy is a significant factor in much of our democracy – even our General Elections fail to enthuse a third of voters. However, these elections attract more attention than any other election, General Elections excepted, and give a vote to everyone. This does little to drive up turnout, leaving those determined to prove a point all the more powerful. These factors combine to create potential embarrassment for the major political parties. It goes beyond embarrassment though when the local elections are factored in, as the coincidence of these elections and the likelihood of voters using all their votes in similar ways creates a scenario where the councillor base is further eroded for those parties out of favour.
Popular local councillors can manage these hurdles, particularly if buttressed by a handsome majority. Many councillors believe their personal vote somehow makes them immune to the tides of political fortune. Such thinking is invariably wrong; if you are defending a small majority and your party could not catch a cold nationally then defeat awaits you. Many good Labour councillors were shown the door during the Blair/Brown years, and Tories are now suffering the same fate.
If the polls are to be believed (a big ‘if’ given at we are still over two months away from the elections) then we could be about to see history being made – the Conservative finishing out of the top two. A recent European poll showed the Tories in third place. The most recent saw the Tories back in second place, but I expect UKIP support to grow between now and May, and this coupled with Tory disengagement could mean a truly unique set of elections.
The latest numbers show:
Liberal Democrat 9%
Another fourth place for the Lib Dems is not good news for them, but it is not new territory either. In 1989 and last time (2009) this is where they finished. Fifth place is possible if the Greens can find a few more voters. Third place for the Tories would be new, and current polling will not leave those councillors seeking re-election in May, or those MPs in marginal seats, feeling at all confident. MPs elected on the back of a solid councillor-activist base will be nervously watching the local election results, hoping that their patch can avoid national attrition rates.
The table shows the vote percentage for the main parties in all of the seven European election contests so far. Only the first two elections, during Margaret Thatcher’s premiership, show the Government party winning.