May 2014, local and European elections: the demise of the Liberal Democrats, the rise of UKIP? Did voters choose UKIP out of ideological commitment? Some chose UKIP because of their tough stance on immigration. The majority, however, let us hope chose UKIP to give the main ‘established and establishment’ parties a bloody nose.
Why? Because many voters feel disenfranchised and unrepresented. Alienated from the political process. The Liberal Democrats used to be the party of protest. Now it is UKIP, dubbed dangerously as the ‘governing party’ (read majority UK party here) in the European Union whose raison d’etre ironically, is to bring Britain out of Europe and disrupt European proceedings on every possible occasion.
The picture in Britain was replicated in parts of Europe. In France the National Front Party won 24 seats and came top in 70% of the country’s regions. The Golden Dawn Party under criminal investigation as a criminal organisation with several members in prison in Greece won three seats, (there is better news below: read on!) Only Angela Merkel, it appeared, retained her moderate, pre-eminence in Germany.
The first piece of good news is that the pro integrationist parties in the European Union still hold a majority. It is interesting that Nigel Farage decided not to join Marine Le Pen’s far right block. It may be that the nationalists within Europe will achieve smaller government or rather mitigate the compulsion to regulate and legislate.
Secondly and significantly, there is another story less reported in this European election which merits attention.
In Greece, Syriza, the left wing opposition, won the majority of seats, following a successful campaign against the austerity policies of the Government.
In Italy, Matteo Renzi and his centre left party won 40% of the vote. Forza Italia, Berlusconi’s party came a poor third. The massive endorsement of Renzi is controversial: ‘He was the elected mayor of Florence and holds no seat in parliament; he became prime minister in February at the invitation of Italian president Giorgio Napolitano. The result gives him the mandate he lacked’… perhaps. (Guardian Shortcuts Blog.)
In Portugal, the country’s opposition Socialist party topped the poll with around 31.5% of the vote. The reason was an electorate registering its objection to austerity measures and leaving the country’s euro bailout programme earlier this month.
A new protest party Podemos (“We can”) took nearly 8% of the vote and five seats in Spain. Coalition group United Left gained an additional four seats bringing to 9 the number of left wing representatives elected.
If there is a unifying rationale of the left-wing electorate, it seems to be opposition to austerity measures. In Britain however, the economy is beginning to boom again, quite possibly thanks to austerity policies, but this is not reflected in the nation’s pay packet. Disgruntled earners from every income bracket are looking for someone to blame.
Let us therefore look beyond our island and France to southern Europe and know that, “we can” make Britain great because it is in its very essence, multicultural and tolerant. Innovation and enterprise thrive where difference is embraced and Britain is greatly enriched and enlightened by the cultural exchange.
It may be that Spain has part of the answer to the disenfranchised electorate as Errejon from Podemos explains: “We don’t just want to be part of a political system that is decomposing. Spain isn’t lacking political parties. But what’s missing is citizens engaging in politics. And we want be a tool for that.” (Guardian, 27.05.14) Let us hope Podemos does not become like Occupy: history will be the decider.