The European Parliamentary elections were an extraordinary process for us in the UK. It’s hard to remember, among all this drama and the ever-shifting news landscape, that these were the elections we never expected to be part of, assumed we wouldn’t participate in; according to Plan A, we wouldn’t even be members of the European Union when they took place, so they were peripheral at best to our ongoing psychodrama with the institutions of Brussels and Strasbourg. And yet here we are, the dust beginning to settle, the tectonic plates beginning to slow their movement.
One outstanding story, of course, was the runaway success of Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party, founded barely six months before but topping the poll with 29 seats and nearly a third of the popular vote; that said, the turnout was low (37%), as it often is in European Parliamentary elections, and these are the conditions in which Farage thrives, stoking up a loyal base and relying on apathy from his opponents. Remainers have to acknowledge, however grudgingly, the scale and suddenness of Farage’s success, his personal popularity with his target constituency and the simplicity and straightforwardness of the party’s central message. Dismiss them as a blip at your peril; politics is changing, and we don’t yet know who the winners and losers are.