Stephen Stacey, Vice Chair of Devizes for EU, lifts the bonnet to have a closer look at those encouraging European election results in the South West and finds them mould breaking.
Members of Devizes for EU, the group campaigning for a people’s vote on the UK’s departure from the European Union, have been celebrating local results in the European parliamentary elections with good reason.
Results from Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party that headed the list of winners in the South-West region as elsewhere merit close examination. The party’s 37% of the votes cast means that it will be sending three Members of the European Parliament to Brussels. The other three MEPs were shared between the Liberal Democrats and the Greens. But this is only one of other significant changes that the Euro-election has put into stark relief.
At the 2014 Euro-election, two MEPs were Conservatives and two were members of UKIP whilst the Greens and Labour had one each. All change for 2019: the Conservatives and UKIP have lost their four MEPs and Labour’s Claire Moody, heading the party’s list this year, was not re-elected. The firmly pro-remain Greens and Liberal Democrats retained one seat and gained two respectively.
In 2017 the Tories won 47 of the 55 Westminster constituencies in the South-West. Labour secured seven and the Liberal Democrats one. Whilst hypothesising national election results from actual European ones is a risky business, it’s worth asking whether there was a seismic shift in the politics of our region at the Euro-elections on 23 May. Peering beneath the affiliation of MEPs returned to the ways in which their electors voted, there are indeed signs that there was.
In the 2016 referendum, 53% of South-West voters wanted to leave the EU and 47% voted to remain. In these European elections, setting aside Labour as a party that is undecided, 49% of the votes cast were for parties unequivocally committed to holding a people’s vote whilst only 41% came from Brexiteers.
Brexiteers do not dare put their proposals to the democratic test
Of course there are differences between the two polls, not least in turn-out: 73% for the referendum and about half that for this year’s Euro-election. Supporting a people’s vote is not quite the same thing as being a Remainer though Brexiteers do not dare put their proposals to a democratic test.
Nevertheless the Euro-election has shown that people’s vote supporters are in the majority in the South-West. It seems that South-West electors are becoming sceptical of the simplistic certainties of the Brexiteers.
“We’re very encouraged by these results,” said Kate Freeman, Chair of Devizes for EU, “but we know that the campaign must go on. We have to continue to demonstrate that the best deal for the UK is the one we already have.
Also we need to encourage voters to challenge the Brexiteers. It simply isn’t good enough to claim that a no-deal exit from the EU will be painless. Not merely jobs but our way of life would be at risk if the Brexit Party has its way.”