The results of European Elections don’t normally have voters on the edge of their seats. Consistent low turnout underlines the lack of interest. I once heard a Scottish MP describe the European Parliament as “Disneyland” because, as he put it, “it disnae matter what happens there”.
Tonight’s results in the 2019 elections may matter more than in previous years. Why? Because they could influence another group of voters, the 100,000 or so members of the Conservative party who are about to elect their new leader: our next Prime Minister.
Let’s say the newly launched Brexit Party does well against the established parties. We’ll get the results of these elections at Ten o’clock tonight.
The influence of Nigel Farage on British politics has been astonishing. If you go back to 2014 and the last European elections he was leader of UKIP.
It was the heyday of the ‘kippers’ and they won 4 million votes giving them 24 MEPs. That result shocked David Cameron into calling a referendum.
The outcome of that referendum was a vote for Brexit and here we are in 2019 mired in the tangle of failed negotiations with the EU.
The results tonight may also shock the Conservative party for a second time.
The results will have an immediate effect because Conservative party members will be electing the next leader and so the next prime minister in a matter of weeks. The plan is to have fresh leadership by the end of July.
For once these European Elections, against the Brexit background, have been about Europe. Not just a free vote for those who can be bothered to trek to the polling station.
Many Tories will be looking at the outcome tonight and thinking to themselves that if they want to do well at the next general election then they need to be doing what the winners of this election are doing, they need to be reflecting the mood of the nation.
Any surge for the Brexit Party will influence the current Tory leadership contest. You can imagine the speechwriters working for Dominic Raab or Boris Johnson sharpening their pencils, and trying to use language that would appeal to the views of those who voted Brexit party in these elections.
Whoever wins will also be in charge of writing the next Conservative manifesto and there’s a possibility of an election later this year.
A new Prime Minister will be under instant pressure to prove they have the backing of the people if they say they’re the chosen one to be delivering on the will of the people.
For once these European Elections could have a much more profound impact on the direction of travel of British politics. The next Prime Minister will be poring over the results very closely.