By Sam Tilley
For only the second time since 1918, the Labour Party has failed to win a nation-wide election in Wales. In a turn of events predicted by many, that honour went to the Brexit Party who managed to win two of the four MEP seats up for grabs. In an even more damaging sign for Labour, they finished third behind Plaid Cymru; this is the first time Plaid have managed to beat Labour in a national election.
In a trend that has been repeated across the country, the Brexit Party convincingly won the popular vote, polling 32.5%, ahead of Plaid’s 19.6% with Labour lurking behind at 15.3%. The Conservatives eventually limped into fifth place, just behind the Lib Dems and ahead of the Green Party. The results mean that Nathan Gill and James Wells from the Brexit Party, Jill Evans of Plaid Cymru and Labour’s Jackie Jones will take up their seats in the European Parliament as Wales’ MEPs.
Across the UK, the Brexit Party won a seat in every region bar Northern Ireland, winning every region in England except for London which was won by the Liberal Democrats. Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, himself elected as a MEP in the South-East England constituency, was buoyant, telling supporters, “There’s a massive message here” before threatening to pull off a repeat of these results in any forthcoming general election. The other new party contesting these elections, Change UK, crashed and burned at the ballot box, polling only 2.9% in Wales and winning no MEPs at all.
This election served as a wakeup call for both the Labour and Conservative parties. The Conservatives had arguably the worst results of the night, pulling of their worst defeat since 1832 and the formation of the modern iteration of their party. They won only 4 MEP seats and ended up fifth in the national vote behind the Brexit Party, the Lib Dems, Labour and the Green Party, who themselves had their best European election in 30 years. Labour also found themselves punished at the ballot box and dropped 10 MEPs from 2014. This is the first national election on record wherein both the Conservatives and the Labour Party failed to poll in the top two and is a dire warning to the leaderships of both parties as to the electability of their Brexit positions.
Following these results, it is likely that there will be a renewed pressure upon Jeremy Corbyn to pivot fully to a second referendum with senior Labour figures, including Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, calling for the leadership to end uncertainty surrounding Brexit. However, allies of Corbyn have called Labour’s attempts at appealing to both Remain and Leave voters “admirable” and have encourage him to stay the course.