This coming Thursday, we will see the nations of the European Union head to the polls for the Parliamentary Elections. These, like national elections, are held to deliver new MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) to Brussels.
Britain voted to leave the European Union in 2016 in a referendum. The British government has since negotiated with the Union on a deal for Britain outside of the EU. As a result, Britain was meant to leave on March 29th, 2019, however, this was not to be the case.
The government has been unable to convince MPs that the deal was in Britains interest. Instead, Theresa May was defeated three times by MPs on a series of votes and deadlines.
To say that confidence in the government has been eroded would be an understatement, and the European Elections look set to show that. The Conservative Party’s poll ratings have plummeted in recent days, whilst others have soared.
This all begs the question therefore, what does this mean for the Conservative Party? It seems almost certain that the Conservatives will suffer from their inability to deliver Brexit on time. However, it is the extent to which this will damage the Party further.
The recent council elections in England and Northern Ireland may offer an insight into this. The Conservative Party in the council elections lost nearly 1400 council seats, with the majority going to left-leaning Democrats.
The local elections were meant to be about ‘bins not Brexit’, but it was clearly far from that. What is most noteworthy here is that the Brexit Party did not field candidates, suggesting it could have been worse. As a result, the European Elections may signal a shift in public attitude that will be impossible to ignore for the Conservative Party.
Predictions for the Elections
The Conservative Party is set to suffer its worst national election defeat in history. This has been fueled by their inability to make good on Brexit, amongst other things.
The leadership within the government has lost the confidence of those it is meant to represent. Moreover, there has been an inability for the Prime Minister to listen to the concerns of her own party. This has caused divisions within the party which may not be reconcilable for the foreseeable future.
Furthermore, with Theresa May promising that she would resign as Prime Minister, there is uncertainty over who will take the reigns. What is certain however is that the new leader and Prime Minister has a mountain to summit.
Above all else, it is the lack of action from the government that has brought the Conservative Party to such a dire position. The vote on June 23rd, 2016, was not just a vote to leave the European Union. Instead, it was a vote by largely working-class areas in the North of England and Wales for change to the status-quo.
However, instead of answering this call for change, the government has fumbled at every opportunity, failing to take action. As a result, this has led to political apathy across the U.K., with some saying they will never vote again. As Matthew Goodwin has stated ‘Farage’s return is a clear symptom of his opponents’ complete failure to make sense of our post-referendum world.’
Professor Goodwin’s statement is true the political class has assumed the status-quo can continue, even with Brexit. But the opposite is the truism. Instead, the very notion of Brexit and the vote for it subverts it entirely. As the Conservative Party is the party in government, they have borne the brunt of this apathy and anger. The European elections will be an exercise in damage limitation for the Conservative Party, and it must then deal with the wider consequences.
Once the results are declared at the beginning of next week, the true extent of the damage to the party will be known. What is a certainty however is that the party must not continue with its bunker mentality. These elections will be a rude awakening for those in government to the anger of ordinary people. If the government is to address this, then it must recognize the concerns of Brexit voters and deliver the result of the referendum.
If it continues to fail post-EU Elections, then the ramifications for the party will be immeasurable. The incoming Conservative Party leader must not repeat the mistakes of the incumbent. If that happens, the Party will never recover.