- Labour punished by working class over Brexit fudge, cuts and national question
Wales: massive anti-establishment vote
Dave Reid, Socialist Party Wales
In Wales, the main victors were the Brexit Party and Plaid Cymru. Leave voters from both Labour and Conservative went to the Brexit Party, who won 32.5% of the vote, about the same as in England.
Remain voters went to Plaid Cymru (20%) and the Lib Dems (15%). Most Labour Remain ‘deserters’ voted for Plaid and Tory ‘Remainers’ for the Lib Dems. Welsh Labour’s 15% (finishing third behind the Brexit Party and Plaid Cymru) represents its worst result in Wales since 1910.
The vote for the Brexit party in mainly working-class areas should act as a wakeup call to Corbyn supporters to break from the Blairites.
Farage has seized on the failure of the Westminster politicians to deliver Brexit, hiding his right-wing ideas to win the votes in these elections of working-class people angry at the capitalist establishment.
This is the same dissatisfaction revealed by the 2016 Brexit vote, with an even more angry twist.
The Guardian report of Farage’s visit to Merthyr revealed some of the potential support for a workers’ party fighting with a clear socialist message among Brexit Party voters.
One Brexit Party supporter was quoted: “Now I seem to think that Labour is just getting in bed with the Conservatives, and they are the upper middle class. I honestly think Brexit is the new working-class party for poverty-stricken towns.”
Of course, Farage remains silent about his support for Thatcherite anti-working class policies and even more austerity.
Plaid and Remain
Plaid Cymru is claiming a big victory, coming second to the Brexit party and beating Labour for the first time ever.
It increased its vote by a third from 2014, but Plaid leader Adam Price’s claim that “Wales is now a Remain nation” is not so clear. Parties that were clearly standing on a Remain platform won 43% of the vote overall, with clear pro-Brexit parties winning 37%.
The turnout in Wales was also 37%, less than half that of a general election and the 2016 EU referendum itself.
In Plaid’s rural heartlands in the north west and west it topped the polls or came second. But in the South Wales valley areas, that Plaid has to gain to win the 2021 Welsh elections, there were clear majorities for pro-Brexit parties.
The election came 12 days after the 2,000-strong All Under One Banner Cymru march for Welsh independence in Cardiff on 11 May – attracting much wider layers of support than in the past, including large contingents of working-class youth.
Both the AUOB march and the surge of support for the Brexit Party show the enormous discontent that exists with the political establishment and the yearning for change.
The limited devolution settlement of 1997 has delivered very little for Wales. Welsh Labour governments have privatised less than the Tories but presided over the running down of public services after ten years of austerity. They have abjectly failed to stand up to the Tory government in Westminster and protect working-class people from the cuts.
And for the Tories, the main capitalist party and the official opposition in the Senedd (parliament), the results are its worst in history in Wales – less than 7% of the vote.
Scotland: Labour finishes up in fifth place
Matt Dobson, Socialist Party Scotland
The European elections in Scotland showed a similar polarisation to the rest of the UK on Brexit. Working-class voters again showed their discontent and disillusionment by staying away from the polls. Although turnout was up slightly from 2014 it was still only 35%.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) campaigning on the slogan – “Scotland’s for Europe” – won 30 out of 32 local authority areas, three seats for the first time and 38% of the vote. The pro-remain Lib Dems regained the seat they lost in 2014.
The Brexit Party won a seat and came second but actually only won 15% of the vote (Ukip won a seat in 2014 with 10%). The Scottish Tories were a casualty of the polarisation and the crisis following May’s resignation coming below the Lib Dems with 11.6%.
Scottish Labour suffered its worst national election result in Scotland since 1910, polling 9.3%, trailing in fifth place. For the first time Labour has no MEPs, finishing behind the Brexit Party in Dundee and former heartlands like South Lanarkshire.
In Glasgow, despite coming second, they only achieved 15% despite winning there in 2014.
As well as its failure to offer a clear socialist position on Brexit, Labour is still being punished for a wrong position on the national question by opposing a second independence referendum and self-determination.
In Labour-run councils it is carrying out cuts and is not seen as genuine fighters against austerity despite the Leonard leadership putting forward some radical left policies.
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard is coming under pressure for failing to make any impact since elected, with Labour also struggling in Westminster polls. Westminster MP Paul Sweeney – who regained Glasgow North East for Labour in 2017 – attacked the Euro-election campaign after the result, demanding the party commit to backing a second referendum and come out clearly for Remain.
The pro-Remain Scottish Greens with 8.3% did not experience any surge and ended up with an identical share of the vote to 2014. This can partly be explained by the Greens increasingly being seen as ‘SNP-lite’, backing SNP austerity budgets in Holyrood and in Glasgow.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon claimed after the result that this was an endorsement of the SNP’s 12 years in power. But that is not the reality on the ground, with rising working-class anger towards the SNP.
The SNP leadership is facing greater pressure from a section of their base to demand a second independence referendum from Westminster, likely to be refused by a new Tory leadership.
Labour’s dire result shows the need for the Corbyn left to remove the Blairite right wing, change its position on the national question, and put forward a fighting strategy of no cuts budgets in councils.
Overall the European elections showed the massive political vacuum that exists for a force to fight for the working class in Scotland with socialist policies.