the Disillusioned kid
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Monday, June 14, 2004

In case anyone's sufficiently boring to be interested the results of Thursday's European Parliament elections are available. The good news is that the BNP failed to win any seats. Additionally George Galloway's Respect Coalition, about which I was more than a little dubious given Galloway's history, the central role of the SWP and the focus on communalist politics, failed to make good on its rhetoric and secure a place in Strasbourg. The Green Party won two seats, less than they had hoped, but hardly a humiliation. While the parties positioning themselves on the "left" achieved only limited gains, the UK Independence Party now have 12 representatives in the European Parliament, which is unfortunate given their reactionary ideology which positions them somewhere to the right of the Tories.

Labour were routed, leading many commentators to conclude that the elections constituted a protest against the war, but my feeling is that while this is probably an oversimplification. The two parties who remained consistently anti-war, the Greens and Respect achieved only limited successes and it is difficult to see what a vote for UKIP (the party of Robert Kilroy-Silk fired from the BBC after anti-Arab remarks).

Of course, other factors could have served to reduce the impact of the anti-war parties. It is possible that the emergence of Respect took votes away from the Greens, however given the coalition's very limited vote, this is not clear. Additionally the Lib-Dems may have picked up some of the anti-war vote as hypocritical as their supposed opposition to the war was and remains. Dr Spencer Fitz-Gibbon the Green Party's media chief remarked, "Over-simplistic reporting of the LibDems' highly equivocal stance over the war has misled millions of people in Britain into thinking the LibDems are an anti-war party."
Charles Kennedy has been saying the LibDems 'strenuously opposed the war', but I don't recall him saying he 'strenuously opposed' it at the time. I recall him saying, and I quote directly: 'We are not the all-out anti-war party.' I recall him mumbling about the case for war 'not having been proven yet' and 'asking Tony Blair some tough questions' and saying he would find it 'difficult to support the war' but I don't remember a single instance of the LibDems saying 'we are opposed to this war for the following reasons' as the Green Party did.

And in the end, of course, the LibDems abandoned all their conditions and all their talk of the case not having been proven, and supported the government's policy on the pretext of 'supporting the troops.' It beats me how you can be opposed to a war yet pledge your 'genuine support' to the means of its execution. I think most people would agree with the Greens that the best way to support the troops would have been not to risk their lives in an illegal war. But because journalists never challenged the LibDems on their somewhat spotted 'anti-war' record, they've probably gained hundreds of thousands of votes, including thousands in London, under false pretences. This is probably the major factor in their having gained a seat.
A complete analysis of the local and Greater London Assembly (GLA) elections which took place on the same day would probably be needed to draw any serious conclusions about the influence of the war on people's voting patterns.

As a caveat to the above I should probably mention that I didn't vote. In part because of the effort needed to get and complete a postal ballot, but primarily because I consider the whole thing a bit pointless. I am something of a EU-sceptic. While I'm all for greater integration with our continental brothers and sisters I do not believe that the top-down, bureaucratic approach embodied by the EU is the way to go about it. Additionally the system is very undemocratic. While the most important body in the EU is the Council of Ministers, made up of ministers with portfolios relevant to the area under discussion from the various member states (ie agriculture ministers in a discussion about the Common Agricultural Policy), day to day decision making lies with the unelected commission. The Parliament has only very limited powers. Of course, there are real questions about the efficacy of voting even at the best of times, but that's a story for another post...
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