Michael Totten

European Earthquake

Elections in both Britain and Germany all but annihilated the political status quo.
The British Labour party came in a humiliating third place, which according to Andrew Sullivan is the worst showing at the polls of the party in power in British history ever. The right-wing Tories came out ahead of both Labour and the Independence Party, but even so it’s their worst performance since 1832.
Germany’s small-s Socialists were badly beaten in the worst landslide against them in postwar history.
I don’t follow European politics closely enough to know what actually caused this. But I can see one thing that seemed to have nothing to do with it: Iraq. Blair favored the war and was creamed. Schroeder didn’t and was hammered. Perhaps there’s a wave of anti-incumbency sweeping Europe. Maybe Europe is swinging to the right. Then again, we’re only looking at two countries here. There may be no trend at all.
If this is a part of a trend, at this point I’d put my money on an anti-EU reaction. From the BBC:

Elsewhere in Europe governing parties in Germany, France and Poland are suffering big losses.
As in the UK, Eurosceptic groups are enjoying their best result at the polls.
[…]
Celebrating his victory, Mr Kilroy-Silk said: “Now we know why the British public are fed up with the old parties. They are fed up with being talked to in that simplistic manner.
“They want their country back from Brussels and we are going to get it back for them.”

I’ve been skeptical about the EU for a while. I love the idea, especially for the sake of Eastern Europeans who could really use a leg up. Integration with the rest of Europe seemed to do wonders for Ireland and Spain and could do the same again for those left behind in the east. But the EU is a ham-fisted overly-centralized anti-democratic behemoth. I wouldn’t design it that way if I were in charge, and even though a European union makes a great deal of sense considering Europe’s tendency to chew off its own leg, I might vote against the current drift of the thing if I lived there, too.