Belfast Telegraph

EU Election 2019

Farage vows to change British politics after routing rivals in European polls

The Conservatives were humiliated and Labour also suffered as the Brexit Party secured victory in the European elections.

Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party stormed to victory in the European elections (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party stormed to victory in the European elections (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Nigel Farage said he would “change the shape of British politics” after his Brexit Party stormed to victory in the European elections.

Conservatives were the main casualties of the Brexit Party’s advance, securing just 9% of the vote in England and Wales and set for their worst ever national election share once the full picture from Scotland becomes clear.

Labour also suffered a terrible night as voters split between the clear Brexit alternatives offered by Mr Farage and the pro-EU Liberal Democrats.

The scale of the Tory disaster was underlined by its single-digit vote share – in fifth place behind the Brexit Party on 33%, Lib Dems on 21%, Labour on 15% and the Greens on 12% after all results were in from England and Wales.

Just three Conservatives were elected in England and Wales, while the Brexit Party had 28 seats, overtaking the 24 MEPs that Mr Farage’s former party Ukip sent to the European Parliament in 2014.

The Lib Dems, reduced to just a single MEP in 2014, were on 15 after their best ever European results.

Labour had 10, halved from 20, the Greens – who also enjoyed a boost from pro-EU voters – were on seven, up from three in 2014.

The result in Scotland will not be formally declared until later on Monday but First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said her SNP had won “emphatically” and would take three of the six available seats.

The Brexit Party, which came second across Scotland, appear on course to secure one more MEP, as will both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

Mr Farage told the Press Association he was getting ready to fight a general election, warning that his Brexit Party could “stun everybody” if Britain had not left the EU by the next national contest.

“We’re not just here to leave the European Union but to try and fundamentally change the shape of British politics, bring it into the 21st century and get a Parliament that better reflects the country,” he said.

Foreign Secretary and Tory leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt said the dire results for the Conservatives meant the party faced an “existential risk” unless it delivered Brexit.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid, another potential leadership contender, said the “hugely disappointing” results were a “clear lesson” that the public wants the Government to get on with delivering Brexit.

Prominent Brexiteer and MEP Daniel Hannan, who managed to cling on to his seat in the South East, told the Press Association it was “without question our worst result as a party ever”.

But Labour also threatened to tear itself apart with a bitter row at the top of the party about the strategy adopted by Jeremy Corbyn.

The Labour leader hinted he might be prepared to change course after coming under pressure to fully support a second referendum.

Two of Labour’s most senior figures – Emily Thornberry and Tom Watson – tore into the party’s campaign, claiming it had lacked a clear message as it sought to appeal to both Leave and Remain voters.

Mr Corbyn said: “With the Conservatives disintegrating and unable to govern, and Parliament deadlocked, this issue will have to go back to the people, whether through a general election or a public vote.”

Hinting that Labour could consider a shift in position, he added: “Over the coming days we will have conversations across our party and movement, and reflect on these results on both sides of the Brexit divide.”

In a sign of how embarrassing the results were for Labour, the Lib Dems topped the poll in Islington, in north London – where both Mr Corbyn and Ms Thornberry are MPs.

Shadow foreign secretary Ms Thornberry – who was sent onto the BBC to represent her party’s position – instead said Labour got a “kicking” because “we went into an election where the most important issue was ‘what was our view on leaving the European Union’ and we were not clear about it”.

Deputy Labour leader Mr Watson said: “Following the disastrous EU election results, Labour urgently needs to re-think its Brexit position and realign with members and voters.”

He urged members to take part in a survey on his website to set out how they wanted to influence Labour’s policy.

The Liberal Democrats attracted Remain-supporting voters from across the political spectrum, including former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell and former Tory deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine.

Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable said: “Our clear, honest, unambiguous message has won us our best ever European election result, and pushed Corbyn’s Labour into third place.”

He said the results were a message for Labour to “get off the fence” over Brexit.

The Green Party finished above the Conservatives for the first time in a national election.

Co-leader Sian Berry said: “There is clear evidence from this of strong support for the UK remaining in the European Union, but also for tackling the causes of Brexit – the massive damage done to so many communities by austerity, tax-dodging and diminution of workers’ rights.”

Votes from Northern Ireland were being counted on Monday.

The results across Europe suggest a decline in the main centre-right and centre-left groupings in the European Parliament, with a boost for the Liberals, Greens and nationalists.

PA

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