Despite the UK results more populism may not be the best answer to populism.

Briefly (since the long post I just spent a couple of hours writing just went phut), Britain…

– Big win for UKIP (is this sounding familiar?), the “let’s have a beer and a laugh” party… Big everywhere (even in Scotland where the SNP’s sustained attack only seems to have increased their populist appeal). Two notable exceptions were London, where a large immigrant population and sheer busyness seems to have dampened their appeal and the South West where they were blocked by Labour and the Greens.

– Lots of problems for the Lib Dems. As the most public advocates for the European status quo (and the governmental mudguard for the Tories in coalition), they were always in for a kicking this time. But it would be easy to exaggerate that as some kind of binary argument between themselves and UKIP.

Tory splits become more transparent. Cameron’s  dependency on Eurosceptics to gain the leadership puts him in an uncomfortable place. Last night  Tory EuroSceptic MEP Dan Hannan was advocating a coupon deal with UKIP to facilitate their ingress into the House of Commons in order to stymie Labour and add momentum to his out campaign. #notgoingtohappen

Labour generally isn’t trusted by those few who  turnout for Euro elections. That’s largely because it is a subject it thought it had  buried forty years in its own 1975 referendum on EEC membership. Consequently it has not had a lot to say about the matter. It’s limited success yesterday arose from Tory and Lib Dem distress. And this is only going to get messier.

The Daily Telegraph says “the people have spoken, and politicians must listen”. The problem is that what they’ve said is about as easy to understand as one Gerry Adams’ strangely oracular tweets.

Despite the press focus on the rise of the Front National and other parties of the populist right and left, the Italian PM Matteo Renzi has just scored a massive 41.6% in Italy over Beppe Grillo’s populist Five Star on 21% with former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi on 16.6%.

Which suggests that more populism may not be the most useful answer to populism.

  • Scots Anorak

    I detect a lack of sleep. UKIP in London got 16.87%. In south-west England it got 32.29%. In Scotland it got 10.46%.

  • Mick Fealty

    Yep, going for a long afternoon lie down…

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Certainly interpreting UKIP’s rise as an anti-Europe vote may be missing the point – see Ipsos MORI’s recent data showing a clear preference for staying in, UKIP popularity notwithstanding

    And Ipsos MORI’s issues tracker from April shows the economy is still the top issue and EU membership not even making the list of top issues:
    That said, immigration is high up and that box is a conduit perhaps for wider worries about the free movement of people within the EU.

    My take is this. Before the wave of immigration this century, experience of immigration was largely an urban thing – and it played its way out, eventually into quite a cosmopolitan, relaxed accommodation with people from non-British backgrounds in those big urban centres. But 21st Century immigration has been spread throughout the country, including small town Britain, bringing many of those sheltered from multi-cultural life into contact with it for the first time. The financial crisis, on top of long term slippage of living standards for many of the low paid and middle paid, has then come at the same time. UKIP’s narrative has then been there to grab onto to make sense of this sense of economic and cultural shock and loss. Unfortunately, it’s led a lot of people to put 2 and 2 together to make 5.

    The reality is of course that:
    – immigrants have been net contributors to the economy;
    – British citizens have also gone abroad to work, so net immigration is not as alarmingly high as is sometimes thought;
    – the economic crisis, as the Coalition would have us forget, was caused not by immigration or even government borrowing but by incompetence and greed in the financial markets, exacerbated by high personal indebtedness.

    We are in danger of taking our eye off the ball of the big issues: a recovery that is long term and works for ordinary people not just a tiny elite. UKIP did well partly as (mistaken for) an anti-elite party. It’s important we take that anti-elite animus, which is well-founded, and direct it against the real elites, those of the City and inherited wealth, which are the real enemies of ordinary people.

  • JoeBryce

    I couldn’t agree more, MU. The EU comes under sustained attack from those who wish to abolish the state so as to free the market. No social care system. The EU is an obstacle to that. It’s terrifying that people have bought so whole-heartedly into that.

  • Greenflag

    @ MU,

    ‘ a recovery that is long term and works for ordinary people not just a tiny elite. UKIP did well partly as (mistaken for) an anti-elite party.’

    Ditto for SF in the Republic & NI and Le Pen’s party in France and others

    It’s important we take that anti-elite animus, which is well-founded, and direct it against the real elites, those of the City and inherited wealth, which are the real enemies of ordinary people’

    It is not that City and Wall St are enemies of ordinary people – it”s that they have accumulated vast power and influence over Government economic and social policies such that our established elected poliiticianns from the main parties be they in the UK , USA , France or elsewhere are seen as powerless to deal with the new plutocracy and the rise of corporate fascism .China is basically Germany or Italy 1930’s minus the flag and racist zealotry .

    Far from being a defender of European citizens rights and democracy Brussels /Strasbourg has become the third part of the corporate Mammonites to add to the City of London & Wall St which are permitted to plunder the globe in the interest of financial elites at the expense of both the developed and developing worlds .

    The banks which were too big to fail and too big to jail are now bigger than ever .

    It will take another Bretton Woods to sort out the inherent financial and currency mayhem underlying the current situation . But neither the Washington DC nor Westminster nor Beijing nor Strasbourg nor Frankfurt or Paris elites have
    any desire to confront the elephants of international finance.:(

    Eventually the ‘risen ‘ people will do the job if their leaders continue to play ostrich !

  • Greenflag

    @ Joe Bryce ,

    “The EU is an obstacle to that. It’s terrifying that people have bought so whole-heartedly into that.”

    The EU ‘was ‘ an obstacle . People in the peripheral countries have experienced that when push comes to shove the interests of the Bundesbank and the French economy take absolute priority over the interests of the European citizenry of Spain , Ireland , Portugal or Greece or for that matter Germany and France and the UK .

  • Outforawalk

    Reality in and around Belfast is that Romanians in particular are not benefiting the economy, they are taking from it non stop. In and around Ravenhill Road there are tons of Romanians who just sit on the dole. I know this first hand from having worked in and around those areas. Also my dear friend who works in the benefits office would also disagree with them benefiting the community. They are a major problem for us here.
    Now I must state, near all Polish people I know are very hard workers. Things need to change and soon.

  • mycousinvinny

    The UKIP vote is, on the face of it, concerning and probably does represent some move to the right amongst the British electorate.

    However, a couple of warnings-

    The expulsion of Griffin and the BNP perhaps does indicate that it’s not all an Enoch Powell dream scenario;
    The euro turnout is about 40%, so the UKIP vote of 30% represents somewhere around 13% of the total electorate;
    Euro elections are not general elections

  • Rory Carr

    In and around Ravenhill Road there are tons* of Romanians who just sit on the dole…” – Outforawalk.

    Rather than have them sign on then I take it that instead they have to weigh in.

    p.s.In recognition of European legislation on the free movement of labour which opened the doors to new immigrants ought that not be tonnes ?

  • gendjinn

    Populism: The word used by the 1% and their lickspittles to describe democracy when it is not delivering tax cuts & bail outs for them.