Punctuated by the epic implosion of Gordon Brown’s administration, and in stark contrast to the successful socialist administration of the U.S., the European left has crumbled. However, the U.K. has provided one anomaly to the movement — the rise of the far left.
So bad was Gordon Brown’s defeat that Michael Foot — victim of a historic pummeling via Margaret Thatcher — can now die assured he is not the biggest loser ever as leader of the Labour Party. In Cornwall, Labour polled sixth behind the Cornwall Independence Party. In Wales, Labour failed to top the poll for the first time in the party’s history. The Conservatives — who topped the polls in Wales — are now the largest party from the U.K. in the European Parliament.
But much to the horror of the entire British establishment, Labour and Conservative alike, the British National Party gained two seats from Labour in the Northwest and Yorkshire. The British National Party is socialist in the old Labour manner, but is fueled by white power thuggery. Their leader, Nick Griffin, used the occasion of the BNP’s success to gloat in spectacular fashion.
Performing a master class in cognitive dissonance, the political establishment has been unable to recognize that a growing segment of the British electorate is both racist and heavily socialist. Journalist Polly Toynbee even had the temerity to place some of the blame on Conservative leader David Cameron and his move to pull his MEPs out of the pro-integrationist EPP to create a new, more skeptical grouping. Some, however, have taken a more reasonable approach to commentary and analysis, avoiding histrionics.
The far left, racist, and crackpot-filled Greens also polled well, but did not increase their tally of zero MEPs. They blame the system for their lack of a seat in the European parliament.
The local elections were equally bad for Labour. Labour lost 291 councillors, lost Bristol to the Liberal Democrats, and were left with not a single county councillor in England and Wales (the BNP gained its first county council seat, taken from Labour).
The rise of the neo-Nazis may be a benefit to those who oppose proportional representation for the election of MEPs, which would necessarily lead to “minor” parties getting seats. Does anyone really want to see neo-Nazis sitting on the green benches of Westminster?
It was not just a good night for the Conservatives and the neo-Nazis — the UK Independence Party increased its MEPs and polled second overall in the country, with over 17 percent of the vote. While their increase in MEPs wasn’t significant, their percentage of the overall vote — and the significance of the areas in which they performed well — made for a good night.
Gordon Brown now has lost quite a few of his cabinet through resignations over the past week, and he was forced in the recent reshuffle to draft Glenys Kinnock (who has to be “ennobled” and given a seat in the House of Lords to take up her position as Europe Minister).
Does all this bad news mean that Brown should resign and call a general election?
Probably, but it’s highly unlikely to occur in the coming weeks. At the earliest, an election will be put off until October when the House of Commons returns from its summer holiday — which begins mid-July. Brown will likely hang on until then, when he will be confronted by a coup of Labour members and be replaced before the party conference in September. The new leader, Alan Johnson, who seems as likely as anyone to take Brown’s place, will probably call a general election in early May next year — giving him time to rally his base. As Labour still has a strong majority in parliament, there is no danger of the government falling prior to then.
Other parties — including the Conservatives, the Welsh, and Scottish Nationalists — are tabling a motion of no-confidence in Gordon Brown on Wednesday. Because of the continued overwhelming majority for Labour, the motion would fail — barring a miracle of conscience on the part of Labour MPs.
So it shall just be a long, hot, and nasty summer for the Labour Party — the rise of the BNP may cause racial unrest, the economy is not improving, and public respect for the government is in freefall. These are interesting times for polticians in Britain. And fascinating times for students of politics everywhere.