Ruling Parties Being Slaughtered In Elections In England And Across Europe
I'll bet if you ask most Americans to tell you why England is in the news today they'd say something about the Queen not being at the D-Day ceremonies in Normandy. But something far more consequential was going on in England today: vote counting in the local elections that took place Thursday. Labor was absolutely wiped out and the Conservatives only did so-so. So what happened?
The most significant numbers are the BBC's projected national shares of the vote: how Britain as a whole probably would have voted if the whole nation and not just the English counties had gone to the polls.
Labour in a Britain-wide election would have secured a mere 23 per cent of the popular vote, Labour's worstever performance in any round of modern local elections and fully ten points worse than its showing when the same county councils were last contested four years ago.
The result could have been worse for Labour-- but not much.
However, it could have been considerably better from the Conservatives' point of view. Their projected national share of the vote was only 38 per cent, down six points since their stunning performance last year.
Add the two major parties' shares of the vote together and they suggest that, had a General Election been held this week, Labour and the Tories between them would have won only 61 per cent of the popular vote.
The remaining 39 per cent backed either the Liberal Democrats (28 per cent) or one of the fringe parties (11 per cent). A mere 4 per cent of voters backed one of the fringe parties a decade ago and only 7 per cent as recently as last year.
In other words, tens of thousands of electors are so fed up with both of the two major parties that they are no longer prepared to vote for either.
Taken together, the two main parties have never done worse since the last war. Had 'None of the above' been on the ballot paper, that non-party might well have emerged victorious.
At the same time as England was picking local counsillors, vaguely analogous to state legislators here, both the U.K. and the other 26 countries in the European Union, where unemployment is at 10% (just like here), were electing members to the European Parliament-- extreme right members.
Across England and Holland, the first two countries to have voted, right-wing populists, some from fringe parties, racked up big gains. The new members are xenophobic, nationalistic, and anti-EU. Jon Kyl's neo-fascist buddy in Holland, Geert Wilders, an Islamophobic fanatic who opposes immigration, and wants the European Parliament abolished, won about 17% of the Dutch vote-- just one seat less than the ruling Christian Democrats. And in Britain it looks like two anti-EU parties, the UK Independence Party and the British National Party (a kind of a cross between the Limbaugh wing of the GOP and the KKK) will win about 20% of the seats. In all 736 seats across Europe are being voted on between Thursday and Sunday.
Final results in the EU elections won't be available 'til Sunday night but the trend looks bad across the continent but exit polls in Ireland, Italy and Hungary are all showing disasters for the ruling parties, many of which are suffering from cascading scandals coupled with an inability to do anything about a severe recession. Once final results come in on Sunday evening or Monday morning, we'll take a look at what happened across the continent.
UPDATE: Is Brown Facing A "Peasants Revolt?"
If Labor comes in third-- or even fourth-- in the EU Assembly elections, Prime Minister Gordon Brown could be facing more than a headache. There has been talk about an attempt by backbenchers to oust him as party leader. Monday Brown will be meeting with Labor parliamentarians who see the election results as a Sword of Damocles hanging over all their heads.
A leading critic of Brown said that a breakthrough for extremist parties could be the tipping point for a revolt that seemed to be faltering: "It is one thing to lose to the Tories, but actually to do so badly that we are letting in the fascists is quite another."
The BNP last night predicted, based on voting patterns in the local elections, that it should secure at least one MEP and possibly two in the north-west-- where its chairman Nick Griffin is standing-- and could even make gains in the East and West Midlands.
The party has never broken through into the European Parliament, and doing so on Gordon Brown's watch would be a damning indictment of his leadership. Alarm bells rang last week after the party won a seat on Lancashire county council, part of the north-west region.
The E.U. election could also be a death knell for corrupt, right-wing Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who is embroiled in a sex scandal with girls young enough to be his grand daughters. (He's 72 and his latest mistress and pimp is 18-- and he used a government plane to ferry her and his friends to his villa in Sardinia.) Yesterday the biggest newspaper in Spain published pictures of Berlusconi cavorting around naked with the topless girls and he called in "an invasion of privacy" and is now suing the paper.
"Berlusconi has succeeded in making the European election a plebiscite on him," said James Walston, a political science professor at the American University of Rome. "Most Italians are voting on whether or not they like the government, there is very little that is a European issue."
The far right lunatic fringe British National Party (BNP) won