The most politically significant thing - more than the election of two MEPs for the fascist BNP - is the scale of Labour's collapse.
It is symbolised powerfully by Wales where the Tories got a higher vote than Labour - a remarkable situation. In the South East region the Greens did better, with 12% to Labour's 8%.
Generally it's a rejection of the political mainstream as neither Tories or Lib Dems increased their support. Gordon Brown could go within days, but the alternative is that he limps on in a permanently crisis-ridden government. An autumn election is probably less likely as Labour will hope they could at least avoid total humiliation if they hang on until spring 2010. A Tory majority is surely now inevitable - and it's more likely than before that it will be a landslide.
The BNP got 2 of their lead candidates elected - including their Fuhrer, Nick Griffin, in the North West - but only by narrow margins; they failed in the West Midlands which they had entertained hopes for. They didn't get the UKIP votes transferring that many predicted, suggesting there's still a widespread taboo on voting BNP for disgruntled racist/nationalistic right-wingers - this is good and reflects a history of anti-Nazi campaigning. It only represents a modest increase in their 'respectability', though of course there's no room for complacency. It is interesting that in the Eastern region UKIP's vote slumped from 26% to 16% - due to not having the illustrious Kilroy this time - but it didn't go to the Nazis instead (they only increased their vote by 2%).
The Greens did extremely well - up to an impressive 11% in their national average. Sitting MEPs Caroline Lucas and Jean Lambert in the South East and London respectively won seats very comfortably indeed. This illustrates that the rejection of the mainstream didn't go all the Right's way. It undermines any idea of a real shift to the right in popular consciousness - it's not 1979 again. The Greens' success suggests an alternative from the Left could potentially garner support.
The Lib Dems did badly, so clearly they're bracketed with Tories and Lab in people's turn away from the mainstream parties. It's not like the aftermath of the Iraq war when, in the middle of this decade, they tacked left slightly and picked up support. This is partly due to leader Nick Clegg's project of positioning them more to the right - it undermines any notion of them as a viable alternative for traditional Labour supporters to vote for.
In the South East the Tories stayed the same and UKIP dropped 1%, while Greens went up 4%. This contradicts any interpretation that says there's a shift rightwards in people's attitudes and ideas. This is especially true when you also consider the poor turnout - there's not widespread active enthusiasm for more right-wing policies.
The Labour collapse, it should perhaps be noted, is not quite so bad in London. This might reflect the fact that at London governance level Labour has now been in opposition for a year, so perhaps there's an element of the anti-incumbency phenomenon damaging the Tories.
Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party (SLP) and the NO2EU slates (backed by RMT, Communists and Socialist Party) did respectably, considering neither have a profile and neither were really capable of mass campaigning. The SLP vote in the North East was 1.7% - higher than Yvonne Ridley for Respect in 2004. Maybe this suggests that having 'socialist' on the ballot paper can - in the current climate - get you at least some votes without even having a profile, significant roots or a real campaign. It strengthens the argument for working towards some kind of left electoral unity.
Strong votes for the left in Ireland, meanwhile, indicate the possibilities and allow us to conclude on a decidely upbeat note. Revolutionary socialist Richard Boyd Barrett, for example, is now a lcoal councillor in Dublin on a broad left platform. The successes there, including in the Euro election, will of course be influenced by the general trajectory of the left and unions setting the agenda in response to the crisis over recent months. While we may not have such favourable conditions in terms of the wider resistance, we can start taking steps to shape an alternative to a hated government, discredited political class and the threat from the fascists.
Photomontage: Ady Cousins, sources Getty images and Richard Partington's Blog
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