Ethan Shone 1st May 2019
What’s that sound? Is that…? Yep, it’s the democracy train, baby! Chugging slowly into a polling station near you! Don’t all scream at once but European Elections will be held on 23 May, and the deadline for registering is a couple of weeks before on 7 May (do it now if you haven’t already, then come back and read the rest).
If current polling is anything to go by, it seems like it’s going to be a really rough night for the Tories. Which, y’know, great! Obviously.
But there’s a catch. Because the Tories’ losses in this election will likely be the gains of the new Farage ego-vehicle, The Brexit Party (top marks for originality there, Nigel), or if not, his previous ego-vehicle, UKIP, who have actually managed to get worse since his departure, somehow.
At a glance, it’s easy to write off these European Elections as a big waste of time, and it’s true that the MEPs we send off to Brussels this time won’t really be able to achieve much of anything while they’re there. But the result will nonetheless be viewed as a political bellwether at a crucial juncture in British politics. The message deemed to have been sent by the electorate will have a profound impact on the direction of British politics and therefore life in Britain for the next few years.
If voters are seen to flock to The Brexit Party and UKIP, then you can expect a very right-wing turn in our politics and media, and for the Tories, in particular, to tack even harder to the right. After all, it was Farage’s shock success in the 2014 European Elections which set in motion the chain of events which led us to our current political quagmire. It seems unlikely that Cameron would have put a referendum in the Tories’ 2015 manifesto if he’d not had Farage’s Ukip breathing down his neck, threatening to take away those sweet, sweet, eurosceptic votes.
All hope isn’t lost, however. Polling might show The Brexit Party surging into a lead, but these predictions are based on similar voter turnout and demographics to previous European Elections. Since joining the EU we’ve never seen turnout above 40% in a European Election, and invariably it’s older people — who are more likely to vote Brexit/Ukip — that have made up the majority of those who’ve bothered to vote.
This isn’t about stopping Brexit
That’s why it’s crucially important that we — the young(ish), the progressive, the decent — get out and vote against The Brexit Party and Ukip. From my partisan perspective, it’d be ideal if you voted Labour, but I’m going to temporarily abandon tribalism and request that you vote for WHOEVER ISN’T THE BREXIT PARTY OR UKIP and actually stands a chance of winning seats in your region. It goes against literally every fibre of my being, but on this one (1) occasion, if you are ideologically wedded to the Brexit project, I think it’s kind-of acceptable for you to vote Conservative so as not to have your vote be used to create a Bregretters narrative.
Because this isn’t about stopping Brexit. If you’re into that kind of thing then, cool, you do you. But if you want us to leave the European Union, I would still beg you to come out against Farage and the far-right. Most of the Brexit voters I know are — as though it needs to be said — entirely decent people, who are just as repulsed by Farage and his ilk as the average Remain voter. I know so many Leave voters, particularly in the north, who are fed up of being stereotyped and caricatured as racists and having their views written off as ignorant ramblings. Well, now’s the time to disprove that myth. Farage has already once managed to co-opt your valid concerns and frustrations, don’t let him again. Because ultimately he doesn’t care about those frustrations, not beyond using them to keep his shoddy career afloat another few years.
Because that’s what it’s really about, of course. A win or anything resembling a win for Farage will embolden him no end. For someone who’s failed way more than he’s succeeded as a politician, it’s difficult to think of a figure who has had such disproportionate influence and attention lavished upon them than Nigel Farage — whether it’s appearing on TV shows, or getting his own highly lucrative radio gig. A strong showing for his party in these elections will secure him a regular place on our TV screens for the next few years, just as his relative successes in 2014 and 2015 have kept his toady face on them ’til now.
Never has so much been paid to so many, to do so little
One straightforward, politically-neutral reason to vote against the gammon parties is that they’re really, really bad at being MEPs; this much they have proved already. Sending them back to Brussels to pocket yet more cash after what they’ve done for the last few years would be like watching your dog shit on the living room carpet and then giving him a gravy-soaked bone.
If nothing else, voting for the Brexit Party and UKIP is a slap-in-the-face to the poor Overtake staffers who so painstakingly demonstrated just how inept, lazy and useless Nigel Farage and many of his Brexit/UKIP colleagues have been in their roles, with our MEPs investigation last month. Never has so much been paid to so many, to do so little (that’s the MEPs — it’s the opposite way around for our writers, cheeky).
And think of the negotiations with the EU that are yet to begin! Surely, to condemn the European Parliament to even just one more YouTube-ready rant by Farage isn’t going to compel anyone to offer us a more favourable agreement. Though if we’d thought earlier to weaponise the threat of sending a load of Brexit and UKIP MEPs to Brussels perhaps we could have already signed off on almost any deal we’d offered.
A strong showing in these elections for the Brexit Party could well pave the way for Boris Johnson to become Prime Minister
Sadly, I know some people think of Farage as an intensely principled man — not like those other politicians! — and if that’s the case then we should save him the quandary of whether to keep on trousering significant amounts of money for a job he believes shouldn’t exist, working for an institution he despises. Clearly, he has wrestled with this difficult decision for a good few years, and it’s now only right for us to help him do the honourable thing.
Finally, and if none of that is enough to convince you, it’s been suggested that a strong showing in these elections for the Brexit Party could well pave the way for Boris Johnson to become Prime Minister.
See you at the polling booth, friends.
Ethan Shone 1st May 2019