Many are calling last night’s election results an earthquake but as EU Perspectives argues, the results are less alarming than the media would have us believe. The Germans, after all, voted overwhelmingly for Angela Merkel’s party and let’s face it there is nothing fringe about Angela Merkel apart from, perhaps, her actual fringe.
The wide grins, the satisfied smiles, the back-slapping and the exuberance said it all. For Europe’s fringe parties it was truly a night to remember. A night where the earth moved in one great big orgasmic climax to deliver the kind of peak that are usually the preserve of porn fantasists rather than grounded opinion.
No where is this better evidenced than in the UK and France. In both of these two EU member states the fringe parties, which have been side-lined for years by main-stream politicians, punched their way through everyone’s smug assumptions and took home the popular vote. UKIP in the UK came ahead of both the Labour Party the Conservatives. The Liberal Democrats, traditionally the third party in British politics, were pretty much wiped out clinging on to all but one of their seats in the European Parliament. So too the National Front in France.
Across the EU, the voter exercised their democratic right to vote and vote they did showing the finger to all those smug elites who had ignored their concerns. Leaders of the mainstream parties in both the UK and France should have seen this one coming years ago but were way too apathetic and just that bit too late in their response. By then the fringe parties had developed a momentum all of their own which proved unstoppable.
Last night’s events have been described by the victorious leaders and the media alike as an “earthquake”. EU Perspectives proposes it was not so much an earthquake as a tsunami. The earthquake itself occurred some eight years ago way out to sea in Washington. It’s just that it took some time for the fall out to hit the shores of the EU. Like a tsunami it began low and with little energy. Like a tsunami it picked up speed, heat and energy.
The actual quake, EU Perspectives proposes, took place in September 2008 when President George Bush, followed his Republican instinct rather than common sense and told Lehman Brothers that the American tax-payer was not prepared to bail them out. The bank went bust, many, many small investors (including many European investors) lost all their savings. The result of this misguided policy led to one of the longest global recessions in recent memory. The fact that the US government did end up bailing out the banks – as indeed did all EU governments – meant that money which should have gone to hospitals, schools and small businesses ended up saving the skin of bankers whose bonuses have continued to rise. The European voter paid for the bank’s bad credit through austerity and yesterday the chickens came home to roost.
The debris, wreckage, flotsam and jetsam that the tsunami has picked up since 2008 can be compartmentalised as follows: voter dissatisfaction at austerity measures whilst the rich seemingly get richer; voter dissatisfaction with a bunch of inept politicians who owe their positions more to family connections than hard graft (Cameron, Clegg and Milliband); a complete misunderstanding of how the EU works viewing it as a force for evil (immigration) rather than a force for good (regulating bankers bonuses) and a belief in the charisma of politicians such as Farage and Le Pen.
Without wishing to flog a point or over-state an analogy, one final point should be stressed. Like all tsunamis, last night’s victory’s will only really affect the low-lying shores. Nick Clegg will probably, and for good reason, do the right thing and resign. Holland will be even more weakened than he already is. Voters in Greece will have vented their spleen and the British, French and Danish voters will hope that their immigration message has been well and truly understood by the Brussels’ elite.
The high-ground, however, remains untouched. At the end of the day the largest parties and factions in the European Parliament remain the centre-right parties (EPP); the socialist parties (S&D); the liberals (ALDE) and the Greens. The Dutch bucked the trend and put Geert De Wilder’s anti-immigration party in third place. Similarly, in Belgium the far-right, anti-immigration fringe party Vlaams Belang was practically wiped off the political map. The Germans voted over-whelming for Angela Merkel’s party and let’s face it there is nothing fringe about Angela Merkel apart from, perhaps, her actual fringe.
There is still much to be optimistic about. The EU project is not dead in the dust as Farage and Le Pen would have us believe. The debris, flotsam and jetsam will soon loose its buoyancy and end up as nothing more than discarded trash littering the sea-shore. They are all widely different in terms of their political agendas. The only thing they have in common is their wish to obstruct and such parties will inevitably self-destruct.
As with all such shock events, however, the EU and its leaders must learn to listen to the voter, engage with them and address their concerns in plain speak not gobbledegook. Something EU Perspectives has been trying to do since it penned its first piece in December 2012.