Everywhere we go at present, there’s talk of an election. Whether it’s the Spanish general election, local elections, or the European elections, it’s hardly surprising that some of us are suffering from election fatigue, or we’re confused about the implications of the potential election results.
The result of the Spanish election on Sunday brought some welcome reassurance for Brits living in Spain, as the Spanish public was galvanised into voting both for and against the far-right. Despite being the third election in four years, turnout reached up to 75 percent. Although the Vox party made gains, its success didn’t reach the predicted level and was countered by an increase in the numbers of seats for the left and the government. The biggest loser was the centre-right PP, whose vote share collapsed – a warning, perhaps, to Theresa May’s government.
With the expectation that a coalition government can be formed, I think many Brits will sleep better at night with the prospect of stability and continuity in Spanish government. The increase in seats for PSOE provided additional reassurances that promises already made to the British residents would be honoured.
While British citizens in Spain were concerned about the impact of Spanish politics on our future, many are more concerned with events in the UK. Although we cannot participate in the UK local elections, many of us will be watching closely to see if predictions are correct – i.e. that the Conservatives and, perhaps, Labour will do badly.
The UK local elections next weekend, and the forthcoming European elections, will both serve to indicate how the British public feels – i.e. what is the now the ‘will of the people’? While incumbent governments traditionally do badly in mid-term local elections, the level of protest could be even greater than would normally be expected. The results will be a barometer of the nation’s feelings towards the government and, especially, towards Brexit. If, as expected, anti-Brexit parties such as the Liberal Democrats do well, the effect could be significant, making it increasingly difficult for the government to claim any kind of mandate for trying to further its Brexit course of action.
If the local elections could influence government strategy re Brexit, then the European elections could be more significant. While the Prime Minister still insists that Britain won’t participate, it’s almost impossible to see a scenario where this can be avoided. The only way to halt the process is for May’s rather unpopular Brexit deal to be agreed by parliament. With cross-party talks going nowhere at present, that outcome seems highly unlikely.
Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party hit the ground running with the launch of its EU election campaign ahead of the competition. Most pundits think it will do well, taking European Parliament seats from UKIP and the Conservatives. Labour seats are also at risk, unless its manifesto clearly states strong support for a #PeoplesVote and a Remain and Reform platform.
The turnout in the UK for voting in European elections has always been low. As with everything else related to Europe, the UK has never been active in promoting the benefits or the responsibilities of EU membership. Had we been more involved in the past, perhaps we wouldn’t be where we are today.
I personally take some of that blame, as I haven’t previously participated in European elections. I intend to correct that mistake on May 23rd, when I will vote for a pro-EU, anti-Brexit party. I hope that those of you who value our EU citizenship, and all the rights and benefits associated with it, will join me in voting, if they can, and will encourage friends, family, colleagues and neighbours to do the same.
On May 23rd, the UK has an opportunity to rally against the far-right, to show that the British people are tolerant, inclusive and pro-European. The Spanish have demonstrated that, by turning out in large numbers, the divisive effect of right-wing extremism can be limited. We must take every opportunity to do the same – the future of the UK and Europe depends on it.
See Sue’s article in The Local