What Wales' Euro vote means

Despite there being no change to the political split amongst Wales' MEPs - we're once again sending one each from Labour, UKIP, the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru - the result doesn't actually mean that nothing has changed in Welsh politics.

Here are my thoughts on what it means for the four parties who won and for the other main party in the Assembly and Parliament which had a particularly bad night.

Welsh Labour

Labour's celebrating winning in Wales and relieved at its UK performance but still some serious questions are being asked. Just a tiny amount of votes prevented it being beaten into first place by UKIP and throughout the campaign all parties believed Labour was on course to win enough to gain a second seat.

In an interview with me for tonight's Sharp End programme, Labour's returning MEP Derek Vaughan makes public his concerns with some of the decisions taken by the party's UK campaign team, particularly it's failure to respond to UKIP early enough. He rejects any call to get rid of Ed Miliband but suggests some actions Labour needs to take now if it's going to win the UK General Election.

UKIP

UKIP is rightly celebrating its achievement in coming second and coming close to preventing Labour from taking first place. The next challenge confronting it is how to turn what was undoubtedly a protest vote into firm support in next year's UK Election and after that in the Assembly.

Nathan Gill says UKIP will begin the work of identifying 3 or 4 target seats in Wales and throwing all it has at those. It could do worse than picking those constituencies in areas which put UKIP in first place.

In my interview with Nathan Gill he confirms that he won't be one of UKIP's stay-away MEPs. He's promising to go to Brussels to fight for the UK's exit from within. He also acknowledges that the party has to decide on some policies to replace the now-disowned 2010 manifesto. A new manifesto will be published, he says, in September.

Welsh Conservatives

At one stage the Welsh Conservatives thought they'd lose Kay Swinburne's seat in the European Parliament so they're pretty relieved that she's heading back to Brussels. She's philosophical about her fall from the top of the poll in 2009, telling me that that was an out-of-the-ordinary experience for the party in Wales.

In her interview she also refuses to countenance panic moves, backing David Cameron and his EU strategy of reform, renegotiation and referendum. The party's immediate task is to win back those Tory voters who voted UKIP before next year's UK General Election.

Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru's strategy of persuading its core voters of the urgency of the situation facing them worked but it was a strategy born out of desperation and it wasn't particularly pretty. Realising early on that there was a serious risk of losing Jill Evans' seat in the European Parliament, party chiefs pulled out all the stops. First there was Leanne Wood's 'anti-Welsh' attack on UKIP and then there was the appeal to Lib Dems to back Plaid. The party's phone bill will be a large one too after a gargantuan effort to contact tens of thousands of identified supporters directly.

But the relief that was obvious last night in Fishguard is tempered with the knowledge that Plaid has had a narrow escape. From now until the UK General Election, Labour will tell anyone who'll listen that UKIP saved Plaid's bacon. Leanne Wood has talked about a 'difficult electoral context.' That context isn't going to become any less difficult.

Welsh Liberal Democrats

There's no way of dressing it up: it was a terrible result for the Welsh Liberal Democrats. They never have done well in Welsh Euro elections but they had hoped at least to hold onto fifth place. They didn't manage that, coming sixth behind the Greens, and in Blaenau Gwent, behind the BNP. Coalition hasn't been kind to the Lib Dems but they're hoping this result marks the lowest point and the start of a long climb back for next year's UK Election. The remarks of some UK party figures suggests that view isn't shared by all members.

Equally worrying for the Welsh Lib Dems are poll results predicting major losses in 2016's Assembly election and Euro constituency results which seem to back that up. A lot can happen in two years but avoiding a Welsh wipeout must now become a priority for the party here.

You can see interviews with Wales' four MEPs and full reaction to the results in a special edition of Sharp End which you can watch in full below.