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Labour falls apart as voters stay at home

This article is over 13 years, 2 months old
Low turnout meant that no party’s votes rose on any significant scale in last Thursday’s European elections.
Issue 2155

Low turnout meant that no party’s votes rose on any significant scale in last Thursday’s European elections.

Labour voters did not rush en masse to the Tories, UKIP or the BNP—they simply did not vote. The turn-out was just 35 percent.

Labour got under 16 percent of the national vote, its lowest in a nationwide election since 1910 -which was the first time it effectively stood across Britain as an independent party.

Since then its share of the vote has never dipped below 20 percent – a figure heralded as disastrous for Gordon Brown prior to Thursday of last week.

Labour came fifth in the South East and South West of England, finishing behind the Greens. In the West Midlands it trailed in behind UKIP.

UKIP beat Labour into second place in the solidly working class city of Hull, where the new home secretary Alan Johnson and Labour’s former deputy leader John Prescott are MPs.

Adding to the disaster is the fact that Labour no longer runs any county councils in England, having lost its remaining four – Nottingham, Derby, Stafford and Derbyshire.

David Cameron was celebrating the Tories topping the poll across Britain.

But the simple fact is that their share of the vote, at 26.7 percent, is way behind what they polled in 1999 when they took 35.77 percent. Both the Tory and Liberal vote fell below their totals five years ago.

This year over a third of voters rejected the three established parties. There is no popular swing to the Conservatives.

The big question is what future is there for Labour, as it tries to soldier on to the next general election under Gordon Brown?

Collapse in Wales

The collapse of the Labour vote in Wales is indicative of the party’s failures to hold on to its working class base.

The country has always been a stronghold for Labour, but now the Tories have their first ever Welsh MEP.

The Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru party should have been able to make gains, with its turn in recent years to more left wing, Old Labour-type rhetoric.

But its participation in the coalition government with Labour in Wales has tarnished that reputation.

Plaid recently toed the Labour line in abolishing Welsh students’ amnesty from tuition fees.

The right also made gains. UKIP gained its first seat with 12.8 percent of the vote, while the BNP polled 5.4 percent.

The fall of Labour’s vote by over 12 percent will be a big shock for the party.

For ordinary people in Wales, Labour’s betrayal of them has been a more painful experience.

SNP win Scotland

The swing away from Labour in Scotland—at nearly 8 percentage points—to the SNP was the highest swing in Britain.

The nationalists came top in 22 of the 32 council areas, including Labour strongholds like Falkirk and South Lanarkshire, winning 29.1 percent of the total vote.

Labour came top in just three of the council areas, polling 20.8 percent nationally.

Labour came third in both Edinburgh South West,

chancellor Alistair Darling’s seat, and East Renfrewshire, whose MP is Jim Murphy, the Scottish secretary.

Only twice since 1955 has Labour come second in a nationwide election in Scotland.

Forty four years ago the Tories took a majority of the popular vote.

Today, despite claiming they “are back in Scotland”, David Cameron’s party remains stuck at 16.8 percent of the vote.

But the Greens also failed to gain and the three radical left parties polled just 3.8 percent between them.

Now a Westminster by-election beckons in Glasgow North East.

It demands a united left candidate to challenge both New Labour and the SNP.

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