Reading the European results

Much of the interest of the commentators looking at the European election results in the UK will be directed to the poor showing of Labour, and the implications that has for Gordon Brown. Some saw the election as a chance to express their general displeasure about the government. We will probably see the poorest ever result for an incumbent government. We then await Labour MPs responses, to see if any more want to join the ragged rebellion. It looks as if the PM is persuading would be rebels that a new leader means the General Election they fear. His message of delay seems to bring him reluctant support.

As some one who sees our current immersion in an intrusive and badly run European federation as part of our problem of overgovernment and wasteful public spending, I will be looking at the balance of votes between the federalist parties – largely Labour and the Lib Dems – and the Eurosceptic parties – the Conservatives and the range of pull out and democrat parties congregating on the Eurosceptic side. We cannot deal with overcentralised bossy government and excessive public spending without tackling the impact of Brussels on us too. For too long the Eurosceptic majority in the UK has been thwarted by its own splits, and by the willingness of too many Eurosceptics to vote for federalist parties at Westminster. My biggest frustration in the last decade has been the overwhelming federalist majority in the Commons, which has never reflected the mood on Europe in the country. Conservatives were alone in voting against Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon.

If you ask the public in opinion polls if they want the Euro they tell you by a 4 to 1 margin they do not. Yet more than half of the public typically vote for Euro supporting parties in a General Election. If you ask them if they want Lisbon, again 4 to 1 are against, yet more than half vote for Lisbon supporting parties at a General Election.

In a PR Euro election people can show their displeasure with Labour by voting for a different federalist party ( e.g Lib Dems), or a Eurosceptic party (Conservative) or a pull out party. For me, the choices made will be important for the impact it might have on the future conduct of European policy. Let us hope that a majority this time have voted Eurosceptic. I suspect this time we will at last see a majority overall voting Eurosceptic, split between those who want substantial powers back with a new single market based relationship, and those who want to pull out altogether. In presenting the results we need to concentrate less on the obvious splits in the Eurosceptic movement, and more on the fact that a majority want less Brussels government. Surely this time the British people will have spoken, and told the politicians they want less Brussels power, less Brussels waste, less Brussels lawmaking and less Brussels spending?

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23 Comments

  1. Mike Stallard
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    Excellent article! Yes, yes, yes. At last the dear old Conservatives seem to have got the message: the punters are not happy with Europe’s bossy, over paid, skiving MEPs or the way that the Commission’s ill considered ideas are nodded through to us, the public.

    Allow me to nail one lie that is fast gaining ground.
    On Question Time yesterday, a question was asked about the Conservatives joining up with Polish Fascists and a Hungarian racist party.
    In his usual stylish way, Dan Hannan blasts this idea right out of the water.
    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/daniel_hannan/blog/2009/06/03/conservative_meps_will_be_in_more_respectable_company_outside_the_epp
    I’ll bet we haven’t heard the last of it, however.

  2. Colin D.
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    It is to be hoped that the eventual big changes in the way that MPs behave and Parliament does its business lead to an acknowledgement that
    (1) Manifesto commitments are just that – a commitment. The utter refusal to hold a referendum, despite being a manifesto commitment, should be an unacceptable modus operandi in the future
    (2) MPs FIRST duty is to their constituents, NOT their party. Currently, MPs feel they join a political elite which has standards and obligations quite different from the people they represent. MPs seem to prefer serving the interests of their ‘elite’ rather than their voters. They think that they know better than we voters. For many MPs, democracy serves only to get them into parliament and, as far as they are concerned, reflecting the opinions of their voters is not of that much importance once they they go through the gates of Westminster. Hence the disconnect between public opinion to the EU and the behaviour of most MPs.

  3. Peter HB
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Bravo! Let us hope that David Cameron reads this and takes note of the British People’s wishes.

  4. marksany
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    There are 3 elections going on.

    1) a performance report on MPs fiddling.

    2) feedback on the Govt’s performance

    3) a referendum on further EU integration

    Picking out which is which from the results is going to be difficult and allow lots of spinspace.

    To be clear about what I did:
    1) Individual MPs can be punished the next time they stand. The system should be fixed by the next govt, with a mandate for the new system in their manifesto.

    2) It’s over for Brown, and Labour are on the way out. I don’t need to give them a push; they will self destruct soo enough.

    3) I voted UKIP for precisely the reason John lays out. To send a message to the Conservative party that I want them to be more Eurosceptic.

    Everyone I have discussed this with has done the same (or gone with Libertas or no2eu)

  5. Brigham
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    How can the conservatives be termed Euro-sceptic when they have as influential members the like of Kenneth Clarke. A trading treaty is all I want with this corrupt organisation. This treaty should be overseen by the most crooked MP’s we have. To make sure that we are not being turned over. The £4million a day saved will go towards paying off the debt incurred by all the stupid decisions made by Brown, first as Chancellor and now as PM.

  6. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    JR: “the British people will have spoken, and told the politicians they want less Brussels power, less Brussels waste, less Brussels lawmaking and less Brussels spending”

    And what will the politicians do? If past experience is anything to go by they will ignore the wishes of the people and carry on regardless just as their masters in Brussels do whenever they give people a chance to express their views.

  7. James
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    The Conservatives also took us into the EEC, supported the cause of membership in the only referendum on the matter and were involved in all of the major milestones in the creation of the EU as we see it today. Also, David Cameron will still not pledge a vote if Lisbon has been ratified by the Irish. Many, perhaps most, individual Conservatives may be openly Eurosceptic but collectively the party cannot claim to be.

  8. Paul
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    John,

    I agree with all you have said, apart from one major thing. The Consevatives are NOT Eurosceptic as party policy.

    If the Tory party offered a vote on the EU in general or even an unequivical vote on Lisbon whether already ratified or not they would win the biggest landslide in political history. They are still being disengenious about their plans. If the Tory party hadn’t prevented MP’s who support BOO from getting front bench seats they would have had the very popular Douglas Carswell as their reform champion. If the Tory leadership’s policies were Eurosceptic I would have joined and worked at constituency level for the party long ago. Instead I’m left with sending them stupidly barbed messages through the ballot box on Euro issues but then vote for them on all other things.

    “In Europe but not controlled by Europe” is the worst political slogan I have ever heard. It is pathetic.

  9. Yorkshireman
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Sound analysis John.

    What you perhaps have omitted is that there is also a big proportion of Labour votes who are also against the EU but due to tribal loyalty vote Labour. The Labour voters are by no means “european voters” and many would quite happily leave the EU.

    The election of the new Doncaster Mayor (English Democrats) illustrates the point. He is an anti-EU candidate and has won on this ticket

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/edwest/blog/2009/06/06/doncaster_shows_there_is_a_demand_for_a_real_conservative_party

  10. pipesmoker
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    JR I don’t consider the Conservatives are a truly Eurosceptic party, your leader is making noises in that direction but with all the usual get outs, just the same as Tony Blair did in promising referenda that he knew he would never allow. Weasel words?

    I was minded to vote BNP but could not bring myself to and so I abstained. I have waited since 1975 for a vote on this country’s membership of the EU and voted Conservative in the hope that they would eventually be party to do the honest thing but they haven’t and conspire in silence to avoid the issue at times of General Elections, that is the lie, the unspoken one that many voters like me are fed up to the teeth with.

    The next time I will put a cross on a ballot paper will be when it asks the simple question about the EU, “in” or “out” and having been against our membership since the mid 1960’s I consider I am entitled to that vote? It is long overdue, it will have to be held one day, why not now?

  11. Paul
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    The danger is that the media analysis will only see the results of the EU “elections” as a message of disapproval for the main parties. The assumption is, after all, that the fringe parties will benefit from the expenses scandals.

    Labour are already spinning this line, I suspect as an attempt to blur the anti-EU message that the electorate is really sending. I hope that the media see through it and look at exactly where the protest vote is going instead of writing it off as bulk protest. I hope that the Conservative leadership acknowledge it too.

  12. TCD
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    If only I could be so confident that David Cameron would indeed be able to renegotiate the relationship with Brussels. I cannot see how this would be possible without at least the threat of leaving the EU altogether. For a moment there was the prospect of an early election which would make it difficult for DC to renege on his promise of a referendum on the Lisbon ‘treaty’. This now looks like pie in the sky. The most we can hope for now is to be able to reinstate the full rebate with the argument that the promises given to Tony Blair in return have not been fulfilled.

  13. DennisA
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    “If you ask them if they want Lisbon, again 4 to 1 are against, yet more than half vote for Lisbon supporting parties at a General Election.” This because there is never any critical discussion of the EU in the media.

    We can not half pull out because all member governments have to agree to changes.

    That is the whole point, we cannot be independent within the EU.

  14. Robert
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the Conservative Party who could hardly be considered to be ‘Eurosceptic’ as Cameron will not promise a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty if it is ratified before he gets the keys to No 10.

    You make an interesting point about the rest of the results in the EU as in the UK the result will be slightly skewed as many people will vote for fringe parties due to outrage at the ruling classes. Perhaps they will do this in the rest of Europe.

    The Conservative share of the UK vote will be down compared to the local elections and this should be a warning to the Europhile section of the party as those voters who voted for fringe parties in the Euro elections but Conservative in the locals may not come back in the next general election. I know. I for one will not unless we have a firmer policy on Europe.

  15. a-tracy
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    The Lib Dems are very quiet about their pro-Euro, federalist desire. Some people don’t understand that if they vote a Lib Dem into Westminster they get someone voting for more integration, the Euro and reduced control for our Westminster government. I personally know people who believe they are similar to Labour but a bit more blue (as in small ‘c’ conservative) but think their European view is similar to UKIP.

    The Lib Dems favour PR but I believe this would be a disaster for them. I know people in strong Labour areas that voted Lib Dem because they thought they’d have a better chance of unseating a Labour MP (they didn’t like or didn’t want as someone not representative of their area) but if every vote counted why would they vote LibDem?

  16. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    I voted UKIP as a tactical ploy designed to help force Labour into fourth place with a view to seeing the end of Brown , a general election and a Cameron led Tory government. We all know that as the Tories are the principle opposition , the government is deeply unpopular and it is a mid-term election which means that John’s Party the Tories will top the poll once the results are declared in a few hours time. You.Gov are a very accurate polling company and their surveys show that the Tories are ahead with things very tight between the Lib Dem’s , Labour & UKIP. I decided that the Conservatives seating arrangements in a powerless talking shop will not reduce the number of laws made in Brussels from 80% nor will it reduce the £20 billion a year that the EU costs the UK. So Cameron’s PR antics and refusal to do anything about The Lisbon Treaty if ratified did not impress me at all. I am hoping for UKIP to come second with 25% of the vote to teach Brown’s crumbling government & to register a protest against the lack of any Tory plan to regain powers from Brussels.

    I am pleased that I voted with my conscience rather than letting misplaced loyalty cause me to put my Party before my Country which I did rather disgracefully by voting Tory in the European elections of 1999 & 2004. I should have voted UKIP for British sovereignty in 1999 & 2004 rather than blandly voting Tory for Hague and then Howard who as I recall recorded poor shares of the vote in those elections for an opposition party at a mid-term election.

    So let us hope for a good UKIP result to tip the scales against Gordon Brown and for David Cameron to stop taking Euro-Sceptics for granted. Remember if all the UKIP vote had gone Tory in 2001 we would have had another 22 MP’s and another 50 odd seats in 2005 had all their votes been for the Conservatives. They say that the Referendum Party & UKIP cost the Tories 12 seats in 1997.

    Do you notice a trend there John that as the Tories fudge on Europe an increasingly anti-EU electorate refuses to give the Conservatives as many seats as the center-right vote might warrant if it all went Tory ? If the Conservatives are cost 100 seats by virtue of the UKIP vote being greater than the Lib Dem or Labour majorities at the next general election will you finally stand up for British democracy & economic competitiveness by pushing for UK withdrawal from the EU ? Will the UK political class finally start listening to what voters really think about the EU ?

  17. Martyn
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Yes, absolutely right. Of course for a long time there were no mainstream sceptic parties, and it’s to Cameron’s credit that he is finally moving the Conservatives to an avowedly sceptic position. The public finally have a chance to vote for a mainstream sceptic party, as the Tories have almost completed their transition from the party which took us into this modern day empire under false pretences, to the party which offers us hope of salvation.

  18. Adrian Peirson
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    The way to finish the EU for good is to pull out, set the British people free to build and innovate like we all know they can.
    Otherwise why would Westminster and the Civil Service spend the last decades trashing and selling off our inventions and Industries. our fishing and farming.
    Set the British people free and the Inneficient Supressive, Totalitarian Regime that is the EU will not be able to compete, it will have to follow suit or drown in our Wash.

  19. Simon
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Shouldn’t you be counting the Conservatives with the federalist parties? Though party members may be Eurosceptic the leadership is not. Hence all the Tories who said they would vote for UKIP as a protest. When you come to think of it it’s a bit difficult to know how to quantify or where to put the Conservative vote in your proposed method of analysis.

  20. Colin Adkins
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Like you John I will be studying the results for the proportion of eurosceptic votes. I voted for UKIP because I am angry, not about MP’s expenses or because I believe UK IP will be effective in Europe, but to make it clear how oposed I am to the European project as it is being pursued and about the way in which parliament refuses to listen to the views of the public on the European question.
    I had considered voting conservative but having heard the lamentable effort by a conservative euro candidate on Jeremy Vines show there seemed little point.
    The problem with Cameron is that he gives little reason to trust him and whilst the offer of a referendum on the Lisbon treaty is something, it is easy to believe that he expects the treaty to be signed before he is in a position to hold a referendum. No doubt in those circumstances it would all be quietly forgotten.
    With the Conservatives lead by Margaret Thatcher, by and large, what she said was what you got. I am afraid however that this is very rare in political leaders, this goes a long way to explain the low esteem in which our politicia ns are held.
    So long as politicians such as yourself, Frank Field and Kate Hoey are confined to the back benches my mistrust of the political system will continue.

  21. APL
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    JR: “.. split between those who want substantial powers back with a new single market based relationship, and those who want to pull out altogether.”

    Problem is Mr Redwood and I am sure you know this to be true, the first of those options is not available.

    There is simply no means to renegotiate the treaties unilaterally. In fact just saying (or writing) such a thing shows what a nonsense the Tory position is.

    The European Union will not agree to a renegotiation and I think this is one of the reasons for the hysteria about the Lisbon treaty and why the Tories are desperate to play down the possibility of a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon.

    Just one thing about the EU election results, it seems apparent to me that the BNP has picked up all the defectors from Labour.

    I would like to see the Tories in the media make much more of this and FINALLY NAIL the calumny that the BNP is a far right party.

    Reply: As the figures show the BNP has not picked up even a majority of the Labour defectors. Of course the UK can renegotiate its membership – especially if we then offer a referendum to the UK on whether to accept the deal or not, which is what i want to do.

    • APL
      Posted June 8, 2009 at 7:21 am | Permalink

      JR: “As the figures show the BNP has not picked up even a majority of the Labour defectors.”

      Please explain where the BNP vote came from. The BNP gained two seats, the Labour vote was down the Liberal vote was overall static and the Tory vote was up.

      In any case, my point is the term ‘far right party’ when applied to the BNP is used by the Labour party and their chums in the media as a slur, the implication that disaffected Tories automatically migrate to the BNP. The results of the EU vote shows that to be a blatant lie.

      reply: Look at the numbers Labour minus 7, BNP plus 1.4

  22. Vanessa
    Posted June 12, 2009 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood
    When will your party tell the truth – that the Conservatives are NOT EU-sceptic and will not arrange for Britain to leave the EU. We have seen that it is folly to believe it can be reformed from within – look at the fiasco of the Brussels/Strasbourg 6-weekly move. The French will NEVER vote for that to stop. None of the other countries has enough MEPs to vote it to stop now the vetos have been abolished and it is ALL majority voting. TELL THE TRUTH as Quentin Hogg once said, over and over, in an interview.
    I don’t like liars, and all of you are lying.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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