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London — Last week the British electorate went to the polls to elect representatives to the European Parliament. Last night the results came in. They make grim reading for embattled British Prime Minister Gordon Brown ... but if the leaders of Britain's main opposition parties though they would be able to gloat ... they are wrong.
Voters do not vote for individual candidates in the euro-elections. Seats are allocated based on the size of a parties vote. So the real winners in Britain are the right wing fringe.
Britain's Conservative Party took 28 percent of the vote — and that was a winning total. The next largest number of votes went to UKIP — the United Kingdom Independence Party, a group dedicated to taking Britain out of the EU altogether — came next with 17.5% of the vote. UKIP is so far out that they don't have a single member of the UK parliament. Now they will be sending 13 members to Strasbourg to sit in the European parliament, two more than Brown's Labour Party. Labour came third in the vote with 15% followed by the Liberal Democrats with close to 14%. Worrying to all mainstream politicians was the performance of the Britsh National Party, a xenophobic quasi-Fascist party. The BNP got 6.5% of the vote and will have two representatives at Strasbourg.
The result for Labour is devastating. The BNP's core vote came in Britain's Northwest, once Labour's heartland, now the scene of tremendous discord between an expanding Asian Muslim population and members of the white-working class left behind by de-industrialization. But beyond the Northwest voters in solid Labour areas — Scotland and Wales — turned their back on the ruling party, or simply stayed home.
Adding to the pressure on the Prime Minister, the British press is continuing to play a dangerous game. It seems to be trying to lead a coup d'etat against Brown ... The Guardian, having assured its readers Brown would be gone in 72 hours last Thursday, 96 hours later —with the PM still there — is re-doubling its calls for Labour MPs to unseat Brown ... the BBC's radio and television news hosts as much as call government ministers liars as they try to answer their questions. It is a grim thing to watch and leaves an interested observer worried for the state of democracy in this country.
As big a loser as Brown is, his troubles are dwarfed by those facing the European Union itself. More than half a century after it was founded, the Union clearly has failed to establish itself as a positive force in European life. A mere third of the electorate in Britain bothered to vote. The situation was the same in other parts of Europe. The result is that the EU, set up in the 1950s on a continent still devastated by the war against fascism, will now have dozens of representatives of parties with the same xenophobic, racist views that underpinned fascist ideology.
In the long run that does not bode well for the survival of the institution.