In the results of the elections for the European Parliament that have been announced overnight, UKIP got the highest vote percentage in the UK, with Labour second and the Conservatives third. Once again the media are banging on about how important this result is, and how it will affect the EU and next year’s General Election. I think neither is the case, for the following reasons:
(i) In the European Parliament, MEPs try to form groups which sit together and vote en masse; it isn’t clear which group the UKIP members will join, and if such a group would have any influence. The various far right parties, including the FN on France, don’t tend to agree on much. Thus they will be at most a noisy distraction to the normal business of the parliament and are unlikely to change very much.
(ii) Turning to next year’s General Election, it is important to realise two points:
(a) The voting system will be different; first past the post as opposed to the form of proportional representation adopted in the Euro elections. Thus an overall percentage has less meaning.
(b) Less voters will choose UKIP in the General Election, where EU membership is likely to be largely a non-issue. I’ve heard estimates of around 14%, which is hardly significant. Nigel Farage may well boast that they will win seats, but on current trends it seems unlikely!
So, in spite of the protestations of the likes of Nick Robinson, this result will have little effect in the long term, in my view. We’ll see if I’m wrong!