Welcome to the Spectator’s liveblog of the European elections results. We’ll bring you results, analysis and political reaction throughout the night.
- Britain: Ukip has come first with 27 per cent of vote (so far), the Tories did reasonably (on 24 per cent, a whisker from Labour’s 25.4 per cent) and Lib Dems are in free fall, losing 9 of their 12 MEPs.
- Scotland: UKIP has won its first Scottish seat, with a 10 per cent vote share. This has infuriated Alex Salmond whose SNP has seen its share of the vote fall slightly.
- Europe’s populists triumph : Marine le Pen’s Front Nationale came top in France, with a predicted 25 per cent share. The populist Danish People’s Party, led by a 33-year-old, has come first there. In Greece, the far-left Syriza picked up 27 per cent and the far-right Golden Dawn 9 per cent. Five Star in Italy won 21.5 per cent of the vote. Germany’s Neo-Nazi NPD looks to have won a seat, but with 1 per cent of vote.
- In Europe: The EPP looks set to retain its dominance in the European Parliament, but with fewer seats. Most established groups look like they have lost to the ‘others’.
02:00: James Forsyth on what we can expect to see from Labour in the near future:
We have become used to talking about ‘class war’ in the Tory party, the tensions between David Cameron and his Old Etonian dominated inner circle and those MPs with grittier backgrounds. But we are about to see Labour’s version of this story.
Many Labour MPs feel that Ukip is eating into the Labour vote in its heartlands because the party doesn’t have people in top positions who can speak to the party’s traditional working class supporters. There are already grumblings that the shadow Cabinet is too dominated by Oxford PPE graduates who live in large houses in London.
There is some truth to the charge that the shadow Cabinet is disconnected from Labour’s traditional support base in the country. It is hard to think of who is the John Prescott or David Blunkett of Miliband’s team. Expect to see increasingly vocal demands for working class MPs to be given more prominent roles by the leadership.
0110: Fraser Nelson in the SNP’s success in Scotland:
So the SNP has (again) come first in Scotland, and UKIP will come first in England. This is more significant than you might expect. We can expect Alex Salmond’s nationalists to use this as ground for divorce – saying it proves how different Scotland is from England, separate political cultures etc. I really hope my English journalistic colleagues don’t buy this analysis. Ukip and the SNP are both riding the populist wave sweeping Europe tonight.
The reason that Ukip did relatively poorly in Scotland because there was another party shouting “I want my country back!” and denouncing the “Westminster establishment”. That said, Ukip took 10 per cent of the Scottish vote, and is the only party to have gained a Euro seat in Scotland tonight. Not a bad result. But the SNP are on 29 per cent so Salmond has his narrative. The gap in the Ukip vote on either side of the border means that Scotland is too virtuous and open-minded for Farage’s bigotry – and as for England? Well fellow Scots, draw your own conclusions.
Alex Salmond has banged on about Ukip and its “appalling politics of intolerance” non-stop during his campaign. This may strike you as odd: Ukip has hardly any footprint in Scotland, finishing 6th last time, so what was Salmond up to? Why all the focus on Farage? The answer, of course, is that Salmond is thinking only about his independence referendum – and sees tonight’s results as a chance to portray England’s politics as being selfish and intolerant, in contrast from virtuous Scotland. To suggest that England is Ukip and Ukip is England.
I loathe this tactic because it has, at its heart, an attempt to portray English people as somehow lacking the tolerance that Salmond attributes to Scots. There has been plenty of such ugly politics about, all over Europe, during this election. I suspect that we’ll see a bit more of it in Britain as the referendum draws closer.
0100: Conservatives are greatly excited about the following from YouGov’s Peter Kelner on the BBC:
Peter Kelner: I think it’s worth looking at it not only in terms of Conservative and Labour, but Government and Opposition. Five years ago, Labour was in government – it got 16% of the vote. Today the Conservatives are leading the Government – they are on 24%. So compared with government to government, they are up. The Conservatives were in opposition 5 years ago, they got 28%. Labour is in opposition now – 24%. So in government/opposition terms, Government up eight, Opposition down four. That, if nothing else, should terrify Labour.
David Dimbleby: Do you have any explanation? It’s all very well to talk about the two sticks, but you are an interpreter of these things as well.
Peter Kelner: There are two things that Labour has failed to do under Ed Miliband’s leadership. Firstly, to establish Ed Miliband as a plausible prime minister. He is consistently a long way behind David Cameron when you ask people ‘Who would make the best prime minster?’, David Cameron is always ahead. Then when people ask who you trust more on the economy, the Conservatives are well ahead. In the past, there have been parties that have won the general election being behind on the leader or being behind on the economy. I know of no election when a party that has won the election has been behind on both leadership and the economy.
0015: Daniel Hannan has told Sky News that David Cameron should form a pact with Ukip at the general election.
2355: According to SvD, the estimated turnout is similar to 2009:
2350: Isabel Hardman on the Lib Dem response tonight:
Senior Lib Dems are now embarking on their disaster relief mission as they’ve lost MEPs in some of the strongest regions for them.
Tim Farron told BBC News that it did look like “we could have none”, while Danny Alexander said “I don’t know that we’ll be successful in any of those places” when asked whether the Lib Dems could win in the remaining target areas.
It is now most likely the Lib Dems will only get one MEP and only possible for them to win two seats. This means the party is within the zone plotted by party chiefs as one MPs would need to describe as “disappointing”.
As I said earlier, it’s difficult to see this as a vindication of Nick Clegg’s personal mission in these elections.
2340: The results from the South West are now in and the Lib Dems have lost their single MEP. Ukip now has two seats, as do the Tories, while the Green party has won one seat.
2320: Nigel Farage has told Sky News he believes that, following tonight’s results, Labour will offer a referendum on Britain’s EU membership:
‘We’ve hit the Labour party in the North of England in a way nobody thought possible’
2304: Fraser Nelson on the collapse of the BNP tonight:
Amidst all the fuss tonight, we may miss a wonderful moment: the destruction of the BNP. The last Euro elections were the high point for British neo-fascism, with the BNP winning almost a million votes – far more support than the National Front of Oswald Mosley mob ever managed. For five years the BNP have been parliamentarians with seats –and, ego, the right to appear on ‘Question Time’. They did well not because voters shared its racist agenda, but because voting BNP seemed to be the best way of throwing a stone on the Westminster greenhouse. No longer. Ukip has given a non-racist, anti-establishment alternative. For this and other reasons the BNP is in meltdown tonight, the odious Nick Griffin has accepted that he has lost his European Parliament seat and the party is being buried because it has tried to hawk racism in the most tolerant country on earth.
2252: The BNP’s Nick Griffin has conceded defeat ahead of the results in the North West, according to Sky News. 2250: YouGov’s Peter Kellner has just called the UK European Elections for Ukip on the BBC. 2242: Die Welt appear to be calling the UK for Ukip, suggesting it has 26 seats. This appears to be a summary of recent opinion polls, rather than leaked exit polls. Here’s its guess – won’t be long until we know the fact: 2240: The chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists Martin Callanan has lost his seat in the North East. He has told the BBC it was ‘always difficult’ to hold onto the region. 2230: The results from Eastern England are now in and Ukip’s chief spinner Patrick O’Flynn is now an MEP:
James Forsyth: The results in the East of England will be a source of celebration for Ukip and of relief for the Tories. Ukip topped the poll with 35 per cent of the vote but the Tories managed to hold on to their three MEPs with the Lib Dems losing their MEP. 2223: James Forsyth reports that Labour have come first in the North East:
Labour wins in the North East, the only region where they topped the poll in 2009. But Ukip were only seven points behind Labour. The Tories have lost their seat in the North East which means that the leader of their grouping in the European Parliament, the European Conservatives and Reformists, has lost its seat.
2210: Fraser Nelson notes the exit forecast produced by Sweden’s SvD, which makes the following predictions:
The EPP (European People’s Party) are likely to remain the no.1 block in the European Parliament, but with the ‘others’ shrinking their number of seats, and those of almost everyone else. EPP group remains largest party group with 211 seats, down from . Socialist block: 193 (down 3), Liberals 74 (down 9) , Greens 58 (up 1) and the leftist GUE / NGL 47 (up 12). The Tories were in the EPP until David Cameron pulled them out (he did so grudgingly, to match a pledge give by the then leadership rival Liam Fox) so they’re in the ECR block which is forecast to collapse from 57 to 39 seats. The UKIP-led EFD looks like ending up with 33 seats, up two. And the big winners? The ‘others’ – from zero to 56 seats, according to the SvD opinion poll. In other words, there are two fingers being thrown up to Brussels all over Europe tonight but it’ll have very little effect in the European Parliament as the old balance of power remains broadly intact. Here’s the SvD graphic:
2200: The voting stations have closed across Europe so we can now (finally) discuss the exit polls. From France, it seems Marine Le Pen’s Front National have come top. According to the BBC, the exit poll suggests the Front National are on 25 per cent, UMP 20 per cent, Socialists 14 per cent, Alternative 10 per cent, 9 per cent for the Greens and others on 22 per cent. 2150: James Forsyth on who will be the next president of the European Commission:
The BBC is saying that the European Parliament gets to choose the next president of the European Commission. It would be more accurate to say that the European Parliament claims that it has this privilege for many national governments dispute this claim. Indeed, EU national leaders are heading to Brussels this week to haggle over who gets the top EU jobs
2140: Fraser Nelson on the results from Denmark and the rise of anti-establishment parties:
It seems that Denmark is set to join France, England and Scotland in the list of countries where the anti-establishment nationalists have triumphed. The Danish People’s Party looks like it has 26 per cent of the vote, according to exit polls. with the governing Social Democrats at 18 per cent. Thanks to ‘Borgen’, we’re a little more familiar with the Danish political system than we might otherwise be. The Danish People’s Party is depicted in Borgen as being led by a provincial oik; in real life, it’s led by a charismatic 34-year old, Morten Messerschmidt. Yes, Messerschmidt as in the aircraft. He’s also dating a 56-year-old Danish pop star. Here’s a picture of them – it looks more like the cover of a Christmas charity single than the face of Danish populism. The Danes get glamour for their ‘I want my country back’ populists: we get Alex Salmond and Nigel Farage. Anyway, I suspect we’ll be seeing more such colourful characters emerge when the results are announced.
2130: Mr Steerpike reveals that Ukip has already planned its victory party ahead of tonight’s results:
Thursday night and Friday were dominated by a flurry of emails and texts from Tory and Liberal Democrat spinners who were highlighting the limited good news for each party as the local election results came through. Their attack operations have also been on top of their game, where as it’s been almost silence from Labour and the characteristically shambolic Ukip machines.
While Labour had some good news to celebrate on Thursday, their backroom operation really let them down. As a result the headlines have been dominated by anti-Miliband sentiment, so it will be interesting to see how tonight unfolds and whether Labour up their game.
Ukip are the only ones so far to have scheduled a press conference for tomorrow morning, which is unsurprising giving how bullish the party have been about their chances all weekend. Mr S can also reveal that there is also a ‘Ukip victory party’ planned for tomorrow evening – appropriately it’s in a central London brewery. Insert your own jokes.
21:25: James Forsyth points out: in terms of the Labour/Ukip fight, it is good news for Labour that turnout is up by six points in Scotland on 2009
21:20: Isabel Hardman on what tonight’s results mean for Nick and Nigel:
Arguably the two men with the most to lose from tonight are Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg. Both are aiming for quite different spots on the spectrum of ‘success’ tonight, but Farage has set winning the European elections as his target, while Clegg made the European campaign his own personal mission by setting up the Nick vs Nigel debates and making his party unashamedly the party of ‘In’. If the Lib Dems really bomb tonight, Clegg’s personal mission will have failed. This is far more damaging to him than poor local results because of the personal investment the Lib Dem leader made in the European campaign.
It’s interesting that his enemies on the Left of the party didn’t wait until these European results to make their disquiet about Clegg known, given the higher stakes for him today. There is a frustrated suspicion in other parts of the party that this was an obviously pre-meditated campaign by the Social Liberal Forum, which has long disliked Clegg. Those grumblers seem to have been looking for any hook for their rage, rather than something genuinely catastrophic, such as total wipeout in the European polls…
21:10: James Forsyth on the importance of turnout in London for tonight’s results:
One of the things that will determine the result tonight is how much higher turnout is in London than it is in the rest of the country. London, where there were also local elections on Thursday, is one of Ukip’s weakest regions and one of Labour’s strongest.
21:00. James Forsyth on the first exit polls from France:
The Front National topping the poll in the European Elections in France was not unexpected but that does not make it any less depressing. Despite its various attempts at an image makeover, it is still a deeply unpleasant party.
‘I have long feared that the single currency, with its lack of democratic accountability, could cause this kind of result. The harsh truth is that the drive for European integration, which was designed to stop the return of extremist politics to the continent, is now contributing to the success of parties such as the Front National.