Britain has never been more European
LONDON — Britain, welcome to Europe.
Nigel Farages upstart Brexit Party — which ran away with 32 percent of the vote and is set to gain 28 seats in the European Parliament — has blown the United Kingdoms political system to pieces. And paradoxically, its made it more “European” in the process.
With the Conservatives and Labour Party bleeding support, and big gains for Farage, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, the two-party system looks like it might be on its last legs — replaced by the multiparty pluralism that drives politics in much of Europe.
As hard as it may be to concede for those determined to buy into the myth of British exceptionalism, the U.K. is following in its neighbors footsteps.
Austria, Estonia and Germany — to name just three — have all reckoned with the rise of an extremist party in national politics. And across the EU, traditional catch-all parties of the center right and center left have also seen massive drops in support. New cleavages that cut across class divides have boosted the popularity of political startups on their flanks — be they populist far-rightists, radical centrists (à la Macron), radical leftists (como Podemos), Green parties, or even separatists.
The more immediate implications of this European election for the U.K. is the collapse of its two big mainstream parties.
Welcome to fragmentation, polarization, volatility and the erosion of traditional party loyalties.
This is not the first time, of course, that a populist, radical-right, British insurgency led by Farage has topped a European poll and sent a big bunch of MEPs to make as much mischief (and as much money) as possible in Brussels and Strasbourg: In 2014, the U.K. Independence Party (may it rest in peace) won 27 percent of the vote.
Despite Farages win this weekend, he is arguably no closer to holding office back home. As the former UKIP leader knows from experience, its by no means easy to turn what is effectively a protest vehicle (albeit a much flashier and better engineered one this time) into an all-singing, all-dancing outfit that people — even the people who play a starring role in every populists wet dreams — reckon is ready for government.
The more immediate implications of this European election for the U.K. is the collapse of its two big mainstream parties. If UKIPs win five years ago sent tremors through British politics, this years Brexit Party upset is more like a full-scale earthquake.
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage addresses a European Parliament election campaign rally | Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images
Five years ago, the big two — lets carry on calling them that for the sake of argument — performed woefully, but were still relatively close on UKIPs heels (with 24 percent for Labour and 23 percent for the Tories). Together, they could claim to have the support of nearly half the country. That argument cant be made this time around: Support for the two parties amounts to barely more than a quarter of the vote.
Labours share, at 14 percent, is its worst at a nationwide election in 100 years, and has already prompted calls for the party to pivot toward calling for a second referendum in order to stop the resurgent Liberal Democrats (on 20 percent), Greens (12 percent), and Scottish National Party (38 percent in Scotland) in their tracks.
But its the Conservatives share, at only 9 percent, thats truly catastrophic. Perhaps most dRead More – Source