The fortunes of the London and Dublin governments continue on parallel lines until we get to the reckoning. Brian Cowen must thank his lucky stars he doesn’t have to go to the polls until 2012, unless the Greens who seem to have been tainted by their coalition partners, quit the government.
The one consolation of the Euro poll is that it looks like Ireland will vote yes this time in the autumn referendum and so save the UK Tories from themselves. Although comment is naturally centred on Fianna Fail’s drubbing and Fine Gael’s “historic” emergence as the largest single party, unambiguously pro-Europe forces still score 70% of the Irish vote. Yes, I know referendum voting is different especially at a time of great volatility, but the stalls have been well laid out this time. Mary Lous defeat (despite a slight overall increase in SFs share) will help, as well as giving a crumb of comfort to those who welcome a setback for the only all Ireland party. In the North West, the anti-EU standard bearer Declan Ganley of Libertas has demanded a recount because of suspected human error in placing bundles but his defeat there would reflect Libertass failure to break through nationally. In GB, with UKIP forcing Labour into a devastatingly humiliating third place, an anti Europe stampede is not be inconceivable in the present political chaos. For the Conservatives, looking ahead to the UK general election, the immediate message is, as BBC Europe editor Mark Mardell puts it.
…it confirms the mood of the British electorate towards the EU. It is also significant in terms of its impact on the Conservatives. It is pretty clear if you compare the local elections with the Euros that the Conservatives lost votes to UKIP. They want those votes back in time for a general election. So if there was ever any argument for them soft-pedalling their hard line on the EU it’s gone. Those who’ve argued for a range of policies, pulling out of the centre-right group, arguing for a referendum, for a new relationship with the EU, will have their hand strengthened.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London