Thanks to all those who sent such kind messages following my election to the European Parliament. I’m sorry not to be able to reply individually to so many hundreds of messages, emails, tweets, texts, posts, and more.
Although I’m delighted to have won my seat back from the BNP, it’s disappointing that we so narrowly failed to take the third seat in Yorkshire and the Humber — by about 1%! Eleanor Tunnicliffe, who was third on Labour’s list, would have made a fantastic MEP. Our other candidates (Asghar Khan, Helen Mirfin-Boukouris, Darren Hughes) all also worked tirelessly.
However, the biggest thanks go to our hardworking party members — and, of course, our voters!
Of course, a strong result for UKIP had been expected. But rumours of a sudden surge to right-wing eurosceptic parties are greatly exaggerated. It’s worth reflecting that the previous vote share for UKIP plus the BNP in the European elections five years ago was 25%. If you add just 5% from digruntled Tories (of which there are now plenty!), then UKIP’s starting point this time should have been a minimum of 30%, even before taking a single vote from Labour. That they only got 26.6% of the vote means that they’re actually going backwards, as they also did in the local elections compared to last year.
But even so, that figure is far too high, and we must work hard to drive them down further.
I think it’s a mistake to focus exclusively on UKIP’s racism. That unsavoury side of UKIP has been adequately exposed by others. Those who still vote for them are either unconvinced, or don’t mind or don’t care whether they are racist. We need to expose them on their policies: flat rate taxation, NHS privatisation, ending parental leave and so on. Most people I met on the doorstep during the campaign were blissfully unaware of these policies, and quite shocked to learn of them.
We also needed to point out repeatedly that UKIP tells lies about Europe, and that their policy of walking out of the EU is extremely risky when so many jobs depend on our close relationship with our neighbouring countries. Far better to stay in and improve, change and reform the EU than to walk out, slamming the door.
As for Labour, we beat the Tories for the first time in 20 years in a European election! Our vote share went up significantly, and we saw a increase of more than 50% in our number of MEPs, from 13 to 20. Unlike the Conservatives, Labour is now set to have representation in the European Parliament from every region of the UK. Half of our MEPs are new, and the majority are women. This is on the back of local election results that saw Labour make 338 gains and make significant progress in the target seats that we need to win in 2015. Lord Ashcroft’s poll reinforced that on Saturday.
UKIP and the Tories outspent us with seven-figure sums, in UKIP’s case thanks to some massive donations from millionaires like Yorkshire property magnate Paul Sykes. At the end of the day, it came down to UKIP’s expensive billboards (plus favourable media) versus Labour’s volunteer campaigners knocking on doors. Labour had more activists out on polling day than all the other parties combined. We have knocked on 7 million doors in this campaign. Our party is reconnecting with voters conversation by conversation, doorstep by doorstep, street by street.
David Cameron spent this campaign showing his weakness by talking about an EU referendum that he can’t even tell us which way he’ll vote in. Rather than tackling the problems in our economy, the Tories look set to make them worse by making departure from the EU a real threat, damaging inward investment and jeopardising jobs in our country. How long until the Tories split asunder on Europe?
As for the Lib Dems, this was a disastrous result. They lost all but one of their MEPs, and many of their voters are now moving to Labour.