There were three big winners from the EU elections in the UK – The Brexit Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens. Clarity of message won. The total and frankly criminal lack of leadership and direction from the Conservative and Labour parties has resulted in the worst showing for our main two parties in history.
Now the spin begins. To me this is the frustrating aspect of politics and politicians. Whatever party, they obfuscate and try and spin the message that their side of the argument won. This is when they won’t answer the question they were asked. It’s the point where I want to throw things at the TV.
On the one side the Brexit Party are saying that the people have spoken again and they have given a clear direction that we need to leave the EU no later than 31st October 2019. They were the clear winners of the EU election. They gained 32% which was well above the second placed Liberal Democrats. However, 32% is approximately 1 out of every 3 people who voted supporting the very clear message the Brexit Party was sending. Conversely this means 2 out of 3 did not vote for this message. On a majoritarian point of view that is a clear win, but on a consensual point of view, they lose. If you believe in first past the post, you agree with the Brexit Party, if you believe that every vote matters you don’t.
On the other side we have those pushing for a peoples vote. Their argument is that if you combine the votes of the parties who were clearly articulating this option (Lib Dems, Greens, Plaid Cymru, SNP, Change) you get 40% with those pushing for definite leave by October (Brexit Party and UKIP) you get 35%. This leaves the 23% who voted Labour or Conservative (plus the 2% who voted for others). Simplistically this side argues the Tory vote goes to the Brexit side and the Labour vote to the peoples vote side giving a clear win for the people’s vote side of the argument.
So BOTH sides won! As Mark Twain said, there are lies, damned lies and statistics!! May I suggest that both sides are talking out of their backsides and it is much more nuanced than that and we are just as finely divided as we were in 2016.
What neither side are factoring in to their biased spinning of the results (because it adds inconvenient truths which muddies their argument) is that these figures are based on a turnout of about 37%. This is just over half the number who voted in the EU referendum in 2016. About 16 million people who voted in 2016 didn’t vote last Thursday.
I have absolutely no real evidence for what I am about to say, only anecdotal evidence and a general feeling. A sizable chunk of the 16 million who didn’t vote are what I’d call the forgotten minority. These are the people forgotten by the metropolitan London-centric national parties. These are the people who (many for the first and only time in their lives) voted to leave the EU in 2016. These are people who were angry in 2016 and are even angrier in 2019. These are the people who, if they haven’t done already, are rapidly losing any belief that politics and politicians work for them in this country.
How many young people didn’t vote on Thursday? This is a group of voters who often do not exercise their democratic right in national elections. It is also a group which is predominantly supportive of EU membership.
When you add these into the mix and, however you split up the Labour/Conservative vote, I’d bet a significant sum on the fact that there is still an almost 50/50 split. The only difference is that the gap and antagonism between the two sides is much greater than it was in 2016.
Three years ago a snake-oil salesman called David Cameron forced a referendum on the UK, not for the good of the UK but to placate the right wing of his own party. He lost that referendum, turning this country’s politics into the nasty, divisive mess that it is now. Unfortunately we have reached a point in our politics that our national leadership on all sides only seems to consist of fellow snake-oil salesmen, obfuscating and spinning this country towards disaster.