European elections show the country is still split down the middle
PUBLISHED: 17:56 30 May 2019 | UPDATED: 17:56 30 May 2019
What did we learn from the European elections? Mainly that the country is still totally split on the idea of leaving the EU, says Iain Dale
It's both hilarious and somehow rather depressing that some people cannot accept the results of referendums and elections. Some Remain campaigners still won't accept that Leave won the 2016 referendum. Many people in the Labour Party seemed to think that Labour won the 2017 general election, even though they got fewer votes than the Conservatives and fewer seats, and Theresa May stayed as prime minister.
This week we've seen the phenomenon emerge again, where Remain groups maintain that they won the European elections despite the facts showing that the Brexit Party got more votes, more seats and won virtually every council area in England and Wales. These people do a disservice to democracy. It's pure political spin that anyone with half a brain can see through.
Had the Lib Dems, Change UK and the Greens combined forces to stand as a Remain alliance, they would have legitimately been able to say that they came top. Combined, they got a total of 35.9pc. Add on the SNP and Plaid and you get to 41.8pc. If you combine the Brexit Party and Ukip vote it adds up to 35pc. However, if you then add the Tory and Labour votes on to the Leave side (it's official party policy of both parties to deliver Brexit), you get to 58.2pc.
The Lib Dems maintain that their side won the election on the basis that they defeated parties supporting a no-deal Brexit. Pure sophistry and spin. Having said that, I do not deny for one moment that these results proved to be a triumph for the Liberal Democrats nationally. They got more than 20pc of the vote and have proved to be a phoenix rising from the ashes of their 2015 election humiliation. The fact that they have returned to electoral popularity must give even the Tories a ray of hope.
In Norfolk and Suffolk the results were a little more Brexity than in the rest of the country, with the Brexit Party scoring 40pc in both counties. Ukip also got 4pc in Norfolk and 3.5pc in Suffolk.
The Lib Dems have never been especially strong in the region, apart from in north Norfolk and the city of Colchester, yet in both counties they achieved their national vote share of 20pc. They also did very well in Colchester, where they must have hopes of regaining the parliamentary seat Sir Bob Russell lost in 2015.
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Perhaps the most surprising result of the night was not that the two main parties did so disastrously, but that the Greens scored so well.
In Norfolk they got 14pc and in Suffolk 16pc. This is way above their national score of 12.1pc, and it will be interesting to see if it can be built on in future local elections, especially in Suffolk.
They came third in Norfolk and Suffolk, ahead of both the Conservatives and Labour.
As for Change UK, well, in cricket parlance, they didn't trouble the scorers and it's difficult to see a future for them.
The Conservatives scored 10pc and 11pc in Norfolk and Suffolk, slightly above their national score of 9.1pc, while Labour managed to gain a mere 8pc of the vote in each county, way down on their national score of 14.1pc.
What does all this mean in the long term? Probably not a lot. European elections rarely give many pointers to what will happen in general elections. The Brexit Party may put up candidates in most parliamentary seats at the next election and if they do, they may not win many seats - but in the south and east of England they may prevent Conservative candidates from doing so. In the Midlands and the north they may have the same effect on Labour.
In the end surely the lesson from these elections is that nothing has changed. The country is still largely where it was in the 2016 referendum - split down the middle, and never the twain shall meet.
Those who think another referendum will solve anything are deluding themselves. It would not only continue the divisions, but exacerbate them. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and thinking you'll get a different result. These elections demonstrate that you won't.
Email Iain at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @iaindale