Of the mainstream UK political parties, only the Liberal Democratic Party is overtly “Remain”.  It has just launched its EU Parliamentary Election campaign with the somewhat surprising slogan “Bollocks to Brexit”.  From an IP lawyer’s perspective, this raises an amusing question of whether copyright could subsist in such a slogan, because if so, the LibDems could be in trouble.  This is because it is a slogan which has adorned the Pimlico Plumbers’ building (adjacent the main railway line for the southwest of London into Waterloo station) for the last two years or so, albeit it could well be that Pimlico Plumbers would not in any event object.  But leaving this frivolity aside, what significance is there in the elections which are now only two weeks’ away?

To assess this, let us first consider that in the UK, just a few days ago, local elections were held.  Given the modest powers local Councils have, these are not usually regarded as especially important, but it was notable that the ruling Conservative (Tory) party took a real battering.  In my own area, pre-election, 54 out of 57 of the local Councillors were from the Conservative Party.  Post-election there are only 23.  This sort of result was repeated across the so-called Tory heartlands of southern and middle-England, and has been attributed to dissatisfaction with the Government’s handling of Brexit, one poll suggesting that 90% of Conservative voters believe Mrs May has done a bad job.  However, this did not result in a rise in UKIP’s share of the vote.  On the contrary, it did very badly indeed.  Further, the vote of the main opposition party, Labour, was (contrary to its hopes and apparently its expectations) slightly down, suggesting that its policy of supporting Brexit but accompanied by a permanent Customs Union and some form of access to the single market was regarded as somewhat “on the fence” and not especially appealing to either Leavers or Remainers.  On the other hand, the LibDems with their clear Remain position, made substantial gains.

All of this might suggest a “Bollocks to Brexit” sentiment gaining ground, and that in the forthcoming elections to the European Parliament, there will be no repeat of 2014 when 24 out of 73 UK MEPs were from UKIP.  However, at present only three of these 24 are still officially UKIP MEPs, with the rest defecting elsewhere.  Notable among defectors is, of course, UKIP’s long-time leader, Nigel Farage.  What is more, he now leads a new party, the Brexit Party.  Launched on 12 April, it did not stand in the local elections, but will be standing in the EU elections on 22 May and has put forward candidates for all 73 seats.  Further, polling would suggest it is likely to gain at least as many seats in the EU Parliament as UKIP did in 2014, and make substantial inroads into the Conservative vote in particular.

But does this matter?  Would it even matter if the Brexit Party gained, say, half of the available seats?  At one level, no, because such a grouping, even with other nationalist groups within the Parliament would still be a fairly small minority unable to do more than make a noise.

But what may be important is the political signal such a result would send to the Conservative and Labour parties.  Both parties may fear that if they do not deliver Brexit in some form, they may suffer similarly badly at the next General Election. They may also surmise that if most leave voters within the two main parties voted in a General Election for the Brexit Party, then it is not impossible to envisage the Brexit Party gaining over 40% of the vote, with Labour in second place on perhaps 25-30% and the Conservatives with less than 20%.  Given the UK’s “first past the post” voting system, that could translate into a Brexit Party majority in Parliament. On that basis, the size of the Brexit Party vote in these elections may matter a great deal in making the main parties think again about their positions on Brexit.  It could drive them into reaching an agreement before 31 October, most probably into agreeing the “Mrs May” deal with a different political declaration, keeping open various long term possibilities – something the remaining 27 would most probably gladly accept.

On the other hand, if “Bollocks to Brexit” results in the LibDems making substantial ground, taking votes from Labour in particular, it could possibly lead Labour to change to a Remain position, or to supporting a second referendum.  Labour could decline to reach agreement with the Government citing unreasonableness on Mrs May’s part, and table another no confidence motion in the House of Commons, which if successful should force another General Election.  At such an election, Remain voters from across the political spectrum who would otherwise not dream of voting Labour, particularly when led by someone, Jeremy Corbyn, who is the most left wing leader Labour has had for nearly 40 years, could choose to rally around a party with a far more realistic chance of power than the LibDems who currently have only eight out of 635 MPs in the UK Parliament.

So yes: in my view at least, the result of these elections may well matter a lot for the future of British politics and to the UK’s place in or out of the EU.  If there are strong showings by both the Brexit Party and the LibDems, it may confirm a suspicion growing for some time that, for now, UK voters identify more as “leave” or “remain” than with a political party, and consequentially drive Labour into a new Brexit position.

Of course all of this is political speculation by someone unqualified to do so and may itself resemble two more or less spherical objects.  On the other hand, do not dismiss this out of hand.  After all, who would have thought that two English football teams would both come back from aggregate scores of 3-0 to win their ties in the Champions League semi-finals?  So to those readers eligible to vote, I would suggest that you go on to the metaphorical terraces of the political football ground, the voting booth, and support your team.


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4 comments

  1. One thing – since the expectation, sadly, is still for a Brexit (seemingly within 6 months), these elections are almost irrelevant for assessing relative votes. Rather ironic that Brexit Party stands for echoing to a body they despise. But of course they will enjoy the financial benefits, particularly if there is some leaving ‘bonus’. Proper politicians of course are not interested – why decamp for 6 months or less?

  2. The UKIP’s share of the vote might not be on the rise, but those of the new party of Mr Farage are.

    The whole article is a plea for remaining as it would mean keeping the UK in the UPC.
    And this is the secret hope of Mr Johnson.

    One thing remains clear, and I would like to paraphrase Lord Palmerston: UK does have neither friends nor foes, it simply has interests…..

    That says it all!

    With the UPC the interests are in the UK legal profession. You draw any conclusion you wish…..

    it is high time the Brexit farce comes to an end. It might cost a lot to the EU, but even more to UK. But clarity is needed. The sooner the better. I do not understand the other EU politicians being so lenient with the dithering of the H.M. Government.

    A former chair of the EU parliament, Mme Nicole Fontaine (guess who was her chef de cabinet?), said it is high time for the Brits to leave, as they never wanted to join in order to cooperate, but simply to insure that their interests are duly taken into account. How true. Just remember: I want my money back! This is only one the many exceptions UK requested.

    Techrights: FINGERS OFF!!!

  3. As i write, Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party is getting more support than Conservative and Labour in aggregate. That’s like the AfD in Germany getting more votes than CDU/CSU and SPD added together, an eventuality which is well-nigh unimaginable. The Euro election is an even better opportunity than the 2016 referendum, for the ever more frustrated voters of England to express anger at the main Parties in Westminster, without it hurting them personally. So expect Farage to get more MEP’s than every other party combined. What an appalling prospect.

    As time goes by, we see ever shrinking possibilities for a regulated Brexit. Increasingly, it looks like the binary choice, Remain or No Deal Exit. If it comes to a second Referendum, it will, I predict, end in 52% for Remain and 48% for a No Deal Exit. And if that happens, how will politics in England ever find a way to row back from ever more extremist rhetoric?

  4. Change UK, the Green Party and the SNP are as far as I can tell all as “overtly “Remain” as the Liberal Democratic Party (arguably more so in some cases).

    Im not sure what is meant by “mainstream UK political parties” in this context.

    In terms of MEPs- the Lib Dems currently have 1 whilst the Green party and SNP have more with 3 and 2 respectively. In terms of MPs the Lib Dems have 11 whilst Change UK have the same number (11) and the SNP have far more (35).

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