Monday, 15 June 2009

Election Special: Round-Up From the Blogosphere

The results are in and so now it's time to collect all the local reaction in another handy Reading List Round-Up.

With different parties trying to spin the results in their favour it's always interesting for Readers to pin comments side by side to ascertain which insights stand up and which fall by the way.

South East England saw no change in the distribution of MEPs returned to Brussels with 4 Conservatives, 2 UKIP, 2 LibDems, 1 Green and 1 Labour candidates elected, as they were in 2004.

Across Berkshire Conservatives were ahead, with the single-issue specialists UKIP in second place, LibDems in third, Labour in fourth and the Green Party fifth. Smaller fringe parties also did better than previously. Turnout was at a level similar to that seen during borough ballots.

From Europe
The European Council on Foreign Relations provides an authoritative summary of the main battlegrounds across the continent and a neat and nicely rounded analysis of the winners and losers.

Wilfried Martens writes an outstanding article for the Centre for European Studies making a convincing case for all the positives which European integration has brought EU citizens and which would be lost were the process to reverse.

Mr Martens is in no way disheartened by the somewhat low turnout in light of all these positive achievements and claims the simultaneous elections across the continent is actually a sign that the EU and movement towards the democratic ideal is gaining momentum.

From Across The Region
Labour's Peter Skinner MEP failed to make an impact as he touched base to urge Labour voters "to stand up for progressive policies that help ordinary people and to reject once and for all the failed policies of the Conservatives".

He ignored national politics to make an unashamedly Euro-positive case that "the European Parliament is THE main battlefield" for issues as diverse as "animal rights, consumer protection, development, fair trade, regulating multinational companies or looking out for Britons in the workplace."

Not to be put off by such Euro-enthusiasm, Howard Thomas, who previously announced his endorsement of UKIP, somewhat effusively declared the election a defeat for the pro-EU cause, suggesting that the vote was essentially a referendum on membership - rejecting the freedom of movement enshrined in European treaties.

The Libertarian Party for South East England concentrates on the national aspect, arguing that the result means Gordon Brown will hang on to power but that the general election is all but wrapped up. RobW is more cautious on the wider issue of membership, saying a consequence of the Eurosceptic majority (on a turnout of one-in-three voters) means David Cameron now cannot refuse the public a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and the wider issue of continued EU membership.

Reading Conservative Wat Tyler is wholly in agreement with the Libertarians, except on the vital point that he thinks the UK should retain EU membership.

Meanwhile left-winger Matt Blackall is less concerned about the implications for future elections or for the national or continental government, concentrating instead on the election of two BNP candidates in other regions of the country.

In Reading
Labour did better in it's Reading bastion than it did across the region, but voters in the town still tended to support the Conservatives in greater numbers.

Former Reading councillor and group strategist John Howarth looks at the picture from the Labour perspective, saying 'disunity and indiscipline' at the national level were the cause of the calamitous results for his colleagues. Public dismay at the expenses scandal hurt his party and the Conservatives, with the main beneficiaries being smaller parties.

He notes that it would be unwise to dismiss the higher proportion of support for 'other' parties as a simple protest, since the swing was as much about traditional Labour voters staying at home as it was about them switching directly to the Greens or BNP - he is defiant that despite the appearance of support for prejudiced parties the people are much more open-minded and reasonable than this.

Because the overall shares of the vote were virtually static compared with last time, the local grandee anticipates the major action a year hence at the General Election which the Euro results were only a prelude to.

Prolific blogger Richard Willis comes out of his north-of-the-river eerie in agreement with his Labour counterpart, and gives a more detailed breakdown of the voting patterns.

From this Cllr Willis makes a generalised attempt to infer the likely general election results for the two Reading constituencies. He disregards three Reading East wards inside Wokingham borough ("a relatively small addition in electoral numbers") and the six Reading West wards inside West Berkshire ("that will add hugely to the Conservative vote"), while neglecting to consider the implication of differential turnouts which are often almost twice as high when electing a Westminster representative.

Cllr Willis does however note a pattern for Greens to win votes at the Euro elections where they do poorly at local elections, but he tries to imply that this reflects a change of tendency rather than the alternative that voters are becoming more sophisticated and are more willing to vote tactically or according to the real issues. Typically, he jibes at the LibDems, who he claims put up a miserable showing.

Local Green party members take a similar view to the indistinguishable Conservative and Labour strategists, hoping that a vote in European elections will translate into votes at local elections and enable them to make their first breakthrough at the local ballot box.

The Greens make it absolutely clear for anyone who is in any doubt that they were fighting tomorrow's election today. They were even moved to celebrate an impending gain of a first council seat on RBC in 2010 - though the public will obviously have more to say about that when the time comes.

Update: Martin Salter MP is thankful for small mercies that the results for Labour "were nowhere near as terrible for Labour in Reading West as elsewhere". Typically he is polishing his own ego, rather than explaining Reading is a regional headquarters for the party and that activists are traditionally drafted in from across the region to help support them in the town.

In Wokingham
Conservative John Redwood MP denies the relevance of the wider selection of parties explaining that the vote was a defeat for proportional representation because voters are "driven to the extremes". Clearly the free-market fundamentalist isn't overly in favour of wider choice when it hurts his side!

He also manages to say in the same breath that only one out of every five votes voted for Euro-sceptic parties and that the majority opinion was Euro-sceptic!

On the other side, LibDem opponent and PPC, Cllr Prue Bray is more excited by the two results in town council by-elections which took place on the same day.

She is pleased that LibDems managed to gain a massive increase in their share of the vote in both these elections and even succeeded in winning one away from the incumbent Conservatives. She is utterly unpeturbed by the lack of catastrophe for her side.

In Newbury
Out in West Berkshire Richard Benyon MP also said the vote indicated the likely general election result, describing the evening as "a real triumph" for his side and "a disaster" for the challenging LibDems.

LibDem parliamentary rival Cllr David Rendel struck back dismissing this as spin, saying the difference in boundaries meant the totals are not directly comparable and with potentially another year to go "there is everything still to play for".

Labour activists highlighted the low turnout caused by a depressed national leadership and argued that this skewed the result giving a false picture, while UKIP declared the night a moderate success for them in the area.

Meanwhile Green party spokesperson Adrian Hollister gives a very bitter and ungracious summation of his opponents, but that's probably because his hopes of a second Green MEP in the region were dashed despite his best efforts.

Among a wide-ranging selection of posts covering the elections Thatcham-based LibDem Paul Walter defends the proportional representation system and the wider range of expression this gives voters. He thinks it is unhealthy for dissent to be masked and that open debate enables people to disagree or agree in full knowledge of the consequence of our choices.

In Bracknell
Radio Bracknell provides a neutral view arguing that the vote in Bracknell was indicative of the wider region - is Bracknell now a barometer of the political mood?

East Berkshire spokesperson for the Green Party David Young released a statement concentrating on his opponents. He said "it was a poor result for the Liberal Democrats and Labour," arguing that while Labour will recover "the LibDems are a spent force".

Mark Thompson obviously doesn't agree with that analysis as he reckons the election of a second LibDem to the European Parliament from the region (Catherine Bearder MEP) is worth celebrating.

In Windsor & Maidenhead
The Libertarians gush at the election night speech made by arch Euro-sceptic tory Dan Hannan MEP, as does Conservative leader of RBWM council Cllr David Burbage (which is less unexpected).

Finally Alistair McRonald gives a rundown on the major stories from his viewpoint and tries to digest what is a pretty mixed bag of results

Oranjepan asks:
What's your story of the 2009 European elections?


  1. i prefer 'deluded' left-winger :-P

  2. Victor Meldrew16 June 2009 at 23:50

    LibDems are losers

  3. "Victor Meldrew said...

    LibDems are losers"

    ...I don't believe it!


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