Welcome to our European elections 2019 liveblog. Polling day was Thursday, but we’ve had to wait for all EU nations to vote. Results have been coming in from 10pm on Sunday: 73 seats representing nine regions in England, plus Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
This liveblog has now closed.
12.32 I’m going to wrap up now. Results from Northern Ireland haven’t come through yet, but so far we know that the SDLP – Labour’s sister party – has done poorly. It seems that the three seats will go to the DUP, Sinn Féin and Alliance. The Alliance Party, aligned with the Lib Dems, has gained ground instead.
We’ll be back with more comment soon, as Labour MPs and activist mull over the disappointing results. Until then, you can scroll down this liveblog to catch up on all the Labour news and read our morning email.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the rest of this bank holiday.
12.26 Laura Pidcock has just appeared on BBC News, saying that the Tories will be happy with “economic sabotage” and Labour wants any deal that can be negotiated to be put to a public vote. “There will be a period of reflection,” she says, as Labour must find a way to stop no deal.
12.22 Scottish results have arrived, hurrah! Not really hurrah, though, because Labour has been pushed to fifth place, down 17 percentage points. Labour has lost two MEP places and won zero seats.
SNP – 3 MEPs, +1
Brexit Party – 1 MEP, +1
Lib Dem – 1 MEP, +1
Tories – 1 MEP, no change
Labour – 0, -2
12.08 Paul Mason’s latest Guardian piece says Labour should oppose Brexit and instead appeal to working-class voters in ex-industrial towns by being tough on “crime, drugs, antisocial behaviour” and “forget scrapping Trident”. “It needs to sideline all voices who believe having a strong national security policy is somehow “imperialist”,” he writes. That proposal is very off-putting to Corbynites.
11.59 Scotland still hasn’t declared. Meanwhile, lots of Labour members are angrily sharing this video of Kate Hoey asking: “Why shouldn’t Nigel Farage be a part of [the government’s negotiating team]?”.
— Ross Kempsell (@rosskempsell) May 27, 2019
11.51 Here’s that clip of Jeremy Corbyn on BBC News, which I quoted from earlier:
Jeremy Corbyn: “There has to be an agreement with the EU, and there then has to be a public vote”
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) May 27, 2019
11.49 The results from Peterborough aren’t good for Labour ahead of the by-election next week. To put it mildly. Brexit Party got 39% of the vote, while Labour won 17%. Lib Dems closely behind. We have to keep in mind that these elections were obviously about Brexit whereas a parliamentary vote won’t be, but BP have a real chance of getting an MP elected here.
The Peterborough results in the #EuElection2019 are: Brexit Party 16,196, Labour 7,272, Lib Dems 6,491, Cons 4,594, Green 4,563, UKIP 1,537, Change UK 1,277, English Democrats 284, independent Attila Csordas 65. Full results for our region announced here –https://t.co/LZgNLoUY5d
— Peterborough Council (@PeterboroughCC) May 26, 2019
11.40 I’ve just published a comment piece from Labour MP Justin Madders, who warns against another referendum: “I might think that our politics is archaic, ineffective and unrepresentative, but I certainly wouldn’t want the architect of that brave new world to be someone like Nigel Farage. And yet with around a third of the vote in these elections, and a fragmented opposition, a similar vote at a general election could give him just that opportunity.” Read the whole article here.
11.20 Jeremy Corbyn has made his first on-camera comments on the results. He said Labour supports securing an agreement with the EU, then “putting that proposal, when agreed, to a public vote”.
He agreed with John McDonnell that “any final deal has to be put to a public vote”. He said: “We’re listening very carefully to what everyone has to say on the subject. The country is clearly very divided.”
The Labour leader added: “The answer is we listen to our members, our supporters and the public. The answer is also we take the fight to the Tories.” But he also said: “The priority at the moment is for this government to call for a general election.”
There was no mention of respecting the 2016 result, so there was a shift in tone, but the position set out by Corbyn today is the same as the one he described in the Andrew Marr interview just over a week ago.
The leadership doesn’t think it’s feasible to put Theresa May’s deal on the ballot paper, as it has been defeated so many times, but would support securing a new deal and ‘putting that to the people’. The catch is that this is impossible unless Labour first wins an election.
11.09 In case you missed this Paul Mason vs Skwawkbox row earlier…
11.03 Those who are unhappy with Labour’s Brexit position are often keen to highlight that a majority of Labour voters are pro-Remain. But the thread below is important. It shows that Labour has become increasingly Remain over the last two decades. As a Labour source close to the leadership pointed out to me yesterday, we haven’t won an election since 2005, when that shift started – we need Leavers to win the next election.
I’m going to try to explain a little about Labour’s current problem re: a second referendum. First of all, this chart shows the Remain/Leave dynamics of the voters the party has lost/gained/held since 2005: pic.twitter.com/0NxJ9Rm7cz
— Ian Warren (@election_data) May 20, 2019
This next chart shows that Labour’s base has become younger and more middle-class. In 2017, Labour lost many voters in its traditional heartlands while gaining votes from metropolitan Lib Dems and Green. The latter group consist of less loyal voters, offering a less stable base, and it is now drifting away from Labour over Brexit. Labour’s electoral coalition has not always been as thinly stretched as it is now.
The chart below shows the composition of the Labour vote in each of the last four election cycles. You should notice how the age and class dynamics of Labour’s vote has changed. pic.twitter.com/ivzZnf8633
— Ian Warren (@election_data) May 20, 2019
10.45 A lively debate is being held among Corbynites on Twitter – Corbyn’s former spokesperson Matt Zarb-Cousin isn’t absolutely opposed to the idea of holding another referendum, but working out what should be on the ballot paper in a way that would produce a legitimate result would be very tricky and contentious. As this thread shows.
10.32 Alastair Campbell, who voted Lib Dem, seems to be speaking for Labour again on BBC News.
10.20 By the way, if you’d like to read the LabourList morning email and can’t be bothered to check your inbox, it’s on the site now. And I’ve got this stuck in my head:
10.18 Keir Starmer has spoken. Predictably, he’s come out unambiguously in favour of another referendum with “a credible leave option and remain” on the ballot paper. But what does “a credible leave option” mean? Does the Brexit Party getting 31% of the vote in a proxy referendum not complicate the situation?
Supporters of another referendum are divided over whether to include ‘no deal’ as an option. On the one hand, Labour says it’s dangerous and basically not a real option. On the other, views are increasingly polarised and no deal clearly has a lot of support. If voters are forced to choose between what they perceive to be two types of ‘Remain’, would that be democratically valid?
It’s no use trying to hide from these very disappointing results. We need to reflect hard and listen to our members, supporters and voters.
The only way to break the Brexit impasse is to go back to the public with a choice between a credible leave option and remain.
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) May 27, 2019
10.00 I’m back this morning, after sending the morning email to LabourList subscribers. We haven’t yet got the Scottish results. Here are the numbers so far:
Brexit Party – 28 MEPs
Lib Dems – 15 MEPs
Labour – 10 MEPs
Green – 7 MEPs
Tories – 3 MEPs
Plaid Cymru – 1 MEP
Across Europe, nationalist parties and green parties have done best.
01.32 The headline is that Labour has done poorly, losing votes in every region, apparently both to the Brexit Party and to Remain-backing parties. It’s as bad as I expected, and worse than many projections. Labour came second in London behind the Lib Dems, and third in Wales.
Labour’s ‘for the many not the few’ message intended to appeal to both Leavers and Remainers has basically appealed to neither – but it’s important to remember that this strategy is designed for a general election, not these Euro elections.
Will the leadership ‘hold its nerve’, as Len McCluskey advised earlier today, or give in to calls for it to back another referendum more strongly? Members and MEPs have been clear that a stronger Remain position is needed, but Labour MPs in Leave seats are vocal, too, and say that the opposite is true. We’re in the same impossible situation that we have been in for so long.
Here’s an overview of the results in England:
East Midlands – no change = one Labour MEP.
Eastern – lost one = no Labour MEPs.
London – lost two = two Labour MEPs.
North East – lost one = one Labour MEP.
North West – lost one = two Labour MEPs.
South East – no change = one Labour MEP.
South West – lost one = no Labour MEPs.
Wales – no change = one Labour MEP.
West Midlands – lost one = one Labour MEP.
Yorkshire and the Humber – lost one = one Labour MEP.
We will know Scotland and Northern Ireland results tomorrow. Going to bed now. Will be sending you thoughts on the results in the LabourList morning email – sign up if you’re not already subscribed! Good night.
01.15 If you want to know how Corbynites who support the party’s Brexit position are reacting:
Am I the only person watching the results and seeing the Brexit Party wins?
How can people say we should be pushing for a People’s Vote? I’m confused!? (And I’m a Remainer!) 😕
— Seema Chandwani #GTTO (@SeemaChandwani) May 26, 2019
After divisions of Brexit & 9 yrs of harsh Tory austerity, Labour ran a positive campaign to bring our divided country together & to challenge the far-right in Britain & across Europe. This #EUElection2019 has been a de facto 2nd referendum, a polarised choice, with no winners!
— Claudia Webbe (@ClaudiaWebbe) May 27, 2019
The bottom line is that Labour members are set to force a change in our Brexit policy. The other bottom line is that the following is a reality, whether pro-PV members want to recognise it or not:
Someone’s going to have to explain to Labour people in the north how huge swings to the Brexit Party merit a second referendum.
— Ian Warren (@election_data) May 27, 2019
01.10 Labour members and MEPs know where they want the party to be on Brexit, but the leadership will be given very different advice from MPs such as Stephanie Peacock:
Terrible results tonight for my party. They show very clearly that people in Barnsley don’t want a second referendum. We need to respect the result of 2016 – bring the country together, compromise & agree a deal that allows us to leave.
— Stephanie Peacock (@Steph_Peacock) May 26, 2019
01.03 In case you missed it, here’s a little bit of reelected Labour MEP Jude Kirton-Darling’s colourful speech:
Wow. Labour’s Jude Kirton-Darling just went in on The Brexit Party’s Brian Monteith. Called him a “hypocrite” just after this section on stage in a furious speech. #EuropeanElectionResults pic.twitter.com/zbVOSW8goP
— Sean Seddon (@seddonnews) May 26, 2019
And her subsequent interview:
Labour’s Jude Kirton-Darling has just slammed Jeremy Corbyn for his Brexit position and laced into Brexit Party MEP Brian Monteith for living some of the time in France. #EuropeanElectionResults pic.twitter.com/QJJgzHaKv3
— Sean Seddon (@seddonnews) May 26, 2019
00.59 Just going to revisit Jeremy Corbyn’s own reaction from 00.22. The standout line is the following: “With the Conservatives disintegrating and unable to govern, and parliament deadlocked, this issue will have to go back to the people, whether through a general election or a public vote.”
This isn’t exactly a shift in policy, but it’s a shift in tone. He is talking about a general election and a public vote as if they are equally desirable. They aren’t, of course, and there are still important influencers who are strongly against another referendum, but it’s worth noting. As I explored at the start of this liveblog, there are fresh reasons for which the party could go full Remain soon.
00.53 According to the BBC’s projection, the Brexit Party is top with 32%, Lib Dems 20%, Labour 14%, Green 12%, Conservatives 9%, Change UK 3%, UKIP 2%. John Curtice says this is basically a draw between Leave and Remain, if that’s how you want to read these results. So we’re making progress as always, moving forward, it’s all going brilliantly, Brexit is definitely going to get solved. Not.
00.50 Labour members are cheered by the news that Stephen Yaxley-Lennon and Gerrard Batton have lost tonight. But that’s the only joy in the party. Everyone is arguing over what our Brexit position should be. Plus ça change.
00.45 Jon Ashworth is on the BBC. He’s saying those who voted Leave in the original referendum still want to Leave, but also Remainers want another referendum. “I think our message is clear. We put forward a compromise, but people in this election didn’t want a compromise. I’m not remotely complacent – it’s very serious when you’re losing votes in Islington and Bolsover.”
00.34 Labour candidates Theresa Mary Griffin and Julie Carolyn Ward have been reelected in the North West, but Wajid Iltaf Khan has lost his seat. The Brexit Party has done very well, while Labour is down 12 percentage points.
1. Brexit Party – 541,843
2. Labour – 380,193
3. Lib Dems – 297,507
4. Green Party – 216,581
5. Conservatives – 131,002
6. UKIP – 62464
7. Change UK – 47,237
8. English 10,045
9. UKEU – 7,125
00.30 Again, Stephen Kinnock is on the BBC criticising both people on the no deal side and on the second referendum side. He is suggesting that it would have been a good idea to try to get to the committee stage of the withdrawal agreement bill and amend Theresa May’s deal. Instead, we’re now heading towards no deal.
00.25 In the South West, John Howarth has been reelected. He was very, very strongly criticising the Labour leadership’s position on Brexit earlier today (scroll down to 21.50).
Nigel Farage has also been elected to represent the region. He warns that the Brexit Party will see the Tories punished at a general election if we do not leave the EU on October 31st.
1. Brexit Party – 915,686
2. Lib Dems – 653,743
3. Green – 343,249
4. Conservative – 260,277
5. Labour – 184,678
6. Change UK – 105,832
7. UKIP – 56,487
8. UKEU – 7,645
9. Socialist Party – 3,505
00.22 NEW comment from Jeremy Corbyn on the results: “After three years of Tory failure to deliver a Brexit that works for the whole country, these elections became a proxy second referendum.
“With the Conservatives disintegrating and unable to govern, and parliament deadlocked, this issue will have to go back to the people, whether through a general election or a public vote. Labour will bring our divided country together so we can end austerity and tackle inequality.
“Over the coming days, we will have conversations across our party and movement, and reflect on these results on both sides of the Brexit divide.
“We will not let the continuing chaos in the Conservative Party push our country into a No Deal exit from the EU. Parliament can and will prevent such a damaging outcome for jobs and industry in the UK.”
00.21 To state the bleeding obvious, both Labour and the Tories are being punished by both Remainers and Leavers. Just as in the local elections. Both Remainers and Leavers in the main parties will be scared by the results. Just as in the local elections.
A resolution to Labour’s Brexit problem looks far away: although the leadership could fold and give in to Remainer calls, the party certainly won’t unite around that option.
00.16 An update on turnout below. Very high in Northern Ireland (“for all the talk of NI’s electorate being overpolled and fatigued,” as Patrick Maguire says). Generally, as outlined earlier, Remain area turnout higher than in Leave areas.
UK, turnout by region:
Northern Ireland: 45.1%
South-West England: 40.5%
South-East England: 39.4%
Yorkshire % Humber: 33.5%
North-West England: 33.1%
North-East England: 32.7%
West Midlands: 31.1%
Pending East Midlands & East England
— Europe Elects (@EuropeElects) May 26, 2019
00.13 Speaking of TSSA, the union’s general secretary has issued comment on the results. Manuel Cortes says: “It looks like we have had a grim set of results for our party in these elections and I’m incredibly sorry that so many of our excellent candidates have not been able to win.
“I have knocked on many doors during the campaign and it’s blindingly obvious that our clear-as-mud line on Brexit hurt us deeply. Now is the time for reflection rather than recrimination – but we must act decisively and act quickly to put in place a policy on Europe which chimes with our members and voters.
“Let us not forget that the overriding divide in our country is between the many and the few. Only a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government can cure this.”
He’s still backing Corbyn then, calling for “reflection rather than recrimination”.
00.08 Predictably, a debate is being held over Labour’s European manifesto. Wes Streeting said the NEC, Labour’s ruling body, should have gone full Remain, whereas youth rep Lara McNeill argues that the NEC could not have changed policy anyway.
The NEC did vote on the TSSA amendment, which suggests it did have the ability to declare/clarify that the party had arrived at the ‘final stage’ of its Brexit policy. But it’s certainly true that a number of NEC members thought that would be wrong, as the body is there to implement the rulebook – not get involved in policy.
The NEC restated Conference policy, as the rule book does not allow us to change it for the manifesto.
— Lara McNeill (@lara_eleanor) May 26, 2019
00.04 Commenting on the results, Remain Labour founder Andrew Lewin says: “This is a devastating result for the Labour Party, but an entirely unsurprising one. Ever since the party leadership sanctioned a manifesto that said Labour support for a People’s Vote on Brexit was no more than an ‘option’, it was apparent that millions of Labour voters were going to choose a different option at the ballot box.
“The Labour coalition has fractured, with voters moving overwhelmingly to smaller parties with a clear Pro-Remain message. Labour cannot win any General Election unless we bring this coalition of voters back together.
“The party leadership now needs to make an unambiguous commitment to a People’s Vote and to mobilise Labour members to win a campaign to Remain in the EU. Nothing else will be good enough.”
00.00 Unlike frontbencher Emily Thornberry earlier, who was unambiguously attacking the leadership’s Brexit position, Stephen Kinnock is making the case for a soft Brexit.
Someone just turned down Mark Francois’ mic. Unclear whether it was intentional.
23.55 No big surprises, Stephen Kinnock says. He is arguing that there is an unholy alliance between no-dealers and proponents of another referendum, which could lead us to no deal. “Compromise has become a dirty word, and that’s a very dangerous place to be for our democracy.”
23.53 In the East Midlands, Labour’s Rory Palmer has been reelected, but that’s it. No seat change. Brexit Party 38 points up, Lib Dems 12 points up. Labour and Tories both down.
Brexit Party: 452,321
Change UK: 41,117
Lib Dems: 203,989
23.50 Labour has lost one seat in South West – no incumbent Clare Moody, nor Andrew Adonis.
Brexit Party – 611,742
Lib Dems – 385,095
Green – 302,364
Conservative – 144,674
Labour – 108,100
UKIP – 53,739
Change UK – 46,612
English Democrats – 8,393
23.39 Labour has lost one seat in Yorkshire & the Humber. Sitting MEP Richard Corbett has been reelected (leader of the European Labour Party, NEC member), but no Eloise Todd (of anti-Brexit organisation Best for Britain).
Yorkshire & the Humber:
1. Brexit Party – 470,351
2. Labour – 210,516
3. Lib Dems – 200,180
4. Green – 166,980
5. Conservative – 92,863
6. UKIP – 56,100
7. Yorkshire Party – 50,842
8. Change UK – 30,162
9. English Democrats – 11,283
23.37 I can’t possibly think why Lisa Nandy isn’t in favour of another referendum. Hold on, maybe this is a clue…
BREX 41% (+41%)
LAB 19.9% (-19.7%)
LD 11% (+9%)
GRN 9.4% (+4.3%)
UKIP 5.4% -26.5%)
CON 5.2% (-8.4%)
CUK 3.1% (+3.1%)
— Ian Warren (@election_data) May 26, 2019
23.36 Both guests on BBC News have spent their entire time so far talking about how badly Labour is doing and the Tories have barely been mentioned. Of course their situation is going to change soon with a new leader, but that won’t solve all of the Conservative Party’s problems – in fact their difficulty with Tory Remainers will get worse. Which is worth discussing.
23.30 Labour has lost a seat in the West Midlands. Neena Gill, incumbent, has been reelected, but Siôn Simon has lost. The Brexit Party has gained three, Lib Dems gained one, Greens gained one.
1. Brexit – 507,152
2. Labour – 228,298
3. Lib Dems – 219,982
4. Green – 143,520
5. Conservative – 135,279
6. UKIP – 66,934
7. Change UK – 45,673
23.28 Labour third in Wales. Only Jackie Jones has been elected of Labour’s candidates (none were incumbents).
1. Brexit Party – 271,404
2. Plaid Cymru – 163,928
3. Labour – 127,833
4. Lib Dems – 113,885
5. Conservative – 54,587
6. Green Party – 52,660
7. UKIP – 27,566
8. Change UK – 24,332
23.26 As I’ve said before, this Brexit position is a strategy designed for the next general election, not these European elections. It is pointless to use these results as a measure of how successful the strategy has been.
Labour losing votes, as we expected. But these elections aren’t relevant to where we are now. The real issue is how we respond to the 2016 ref, given the Tories got us to where we are now. Let’s hold our nerve, only a #GeneralElectionNow will resolve this #EuropeanElections2019
— Len McCluskey (@LenMcCluskey) May 26, 2019
23.22 There is now no Labour representative on BBC News – it’s Suzanne Evans and anti-Brexit Alastair Campbell, who has just said he voted Lib Dem not Labour.
23.20 Just as with the local elections earlier this month, Labour camps on either side of the Brexit debate will be emboldened by the results. Labour MPs in Leave areas are feeling the Brexit Party threat while Labour MPs in Remain areas are feeling the Lib Dem/Green threat. Both will want a clearer position on Brexit, but in opposite directions.
23.16 Lisa Nandy from Leave-voting Wigan points out that there has been much focus on Islington, as usual, and less on the rest of the country:
Apparently this is the result that matters this evening 😡☹️🔥 https://t.co/oFXqfp7JBc
— Lisa Nandy (@lisanandy) May 26, 2019
23.08 Len McCluskey’s opposition to another referendum is raised with Thornberry. The frontbencher says she talks to him regularly and they both recognise that people are divided.
23.06 Labour is going to do worse than predicted:
— Britain Elects (@britainelects) May 26, 2019
23.04 The Lib Dems have beaten Labour in London, as predicted. Only Labour’s incumbents, Claude Moraes and Seb Dance, have been elected – no Katy Clark (Corbyn ally), no Laura Parker (pro-EU Momentum coordinator). Labour has lost two of its four places.
Animal Welfare Party – 25,232
Change UK – 117,635
Conservative – 177,964
Green – 278,957
Labour – 536,810
Lib Dems – 608,725
Brexit Party – 400,257
UKEUP – 18,806
UKIP – 46,497
WEP – 23,766
23.01 Thornberry on BBC still pushing the view that Labour must pivot towards a more clearly pro-Remain position. “We need to make sure that we listen carefully… Jeremy is overwhelmingly a democrat so quite sure he will listen to the membership.”
22.58 Momentum chair Jon Lansman is urging caution, saying it’s too early to be drawing conclusions (*cough* Emily Thornberry):
It is clear so far in the EU elections that Labour has lost support in both directions on Brexit. It is therefore far too early to be drawing conclusions about how we should change policy. Anyone who says otherwise decided what they were going to say before they saw the results
— Jon Lansman (@jonlansman) May 26, 2019
22.57 In the East of England, Labour’s incumbent MEP Alex Mayer is gone. Three seats to the Brexit Party, two to the Lib Dems, one to the Greens, one Tory.
I’m deeply disappointed we were not able to hold our @UKLabour seat. It was a privilege to serve as your MEP. Thank you to everyone who helped in the campaign. Setbacks should make us more determined to campaign even harder so we win power to put our socialist values into action.
— Alex Mayer MEP (@alexlmayer) May 26, 2019
Change UK – 58,274
Conservative – 163,830
English democrats – 10,217
Green – 202,460
Labour – 139,490
Lib Dems – 361,563
Brexit – 604,715
UKIP – 54,676
22.52 As nobody from Labour is on the telly defending these results, I’ll provide the service that is usually supposed to be offered by whoever is on the BBC now. (Emily Thornberry has gone full Remain instead.)
Labour is expecting to lose heavily to both the Lib Dems and the Brexit Party, and to come below the Lib Dems in national vote share. These elections have largely been treated as a proxy referendum, which naturally benefits the small parties that are clearly either ‘Leave’ or ‘Remain’.
Labour acknowledges that its position on Brexit has been a difficult sell on the doorstep, but thinks not coming down on either side was the responsible thing to do – aiming to find a solution for the whole country.
Party sources are also keen to point out that Labour has done badly in Euro elections over the last 20 years.
For more analysis, scroll down to 22.00 below.
22.45 Labour’s NEC youth rep Lara McNeill is reacting to Thornberry’s comments on BBC News, pointing out that Labour target seats are showing landslides for the Brexit Party.
And as I type, we’ve just seen a big Labour drop in Blaenau Gwent, Wales, and a big boost for the Brexit Party.
Disappointing that @EmilyThornberry is unilaterally disagreeing with Party policy live on BBC when we all fought a general election on a manifesto to respect the result of the referendum.
At the same time as Labour target seats come in with landslides for the Brexit Party 🙄
— Lara McNeill (@lara_eleanor) May 26, 2019
22.40 These Brexit Party figures are astounding. Upwards of 50% in the West Midlands and Yorkshire & the Humber. Brexit Party so far on 32% across English councils.
22.38 Predictably, Islington (as well as Camden) has seen the Lib Dems come out on top.
22.35 It’s difficult to see how Ian Lavery and Jon Trickett will continue in their posts if Labour goes full Remain after these elections. Thornberry is on BBC News arguing that the drop in Labour votes aligns with the increase in Lib Dem, Green and Change UK votes, and therefore Labour must have a clearer pro-Remain position.
22.33 The debate over where Labour should position itself on Brexit is raging already. Party chair Ian Lavery, who is staunchly opposed to another referendum, has tweeted:
The country is now more polarised than ever. Very toxic very unpleasant!@UKLabour we WILL NEVER turn our backs on the 48% or the 52% we will seek the real solutions that will heal society and bring together the 100%.
— Ian Lavery MP (@IanLaveryMP) May 26, 2019
22.30 Thornberry’s comments have delighted Wes Streeting:
.@EmilyThornberry is absolutely right – the NEC should have listened to our members and voters. She gets it. We can bring the country together with anti-austerity policies, but we’ve also got to be clear that we’re backing a referendum on any deal and will campaign to remain.
— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) May 26, 2019
Meanwhile, from the other side of the Brexit debate, Caroline Flint tweets:
Early warning. Doncaster turnout similar to 2014. Labour vote in Doncaster halved. Pro Brexit Parties not inc Tories up 10%. Brexit Party 45% of the vote. It would be a mistake for Labour to only become a Party for Remain/2ndRef voters.
— Caroline Flint (@CarolineFlintMP) May 26, 2019
22.26 First full result! In the North East, Brexit Party has topped the poll, Labour is on a distant second, then Lib Dems, Greens, Tories, UKIP, Change UK. BP 39% and Lab 19%.
Two Brexit Party MEPs and Labour’s incumbent MEP Jude Kirton-Darling have been elected.
22.25 Thornberry has just confirmed that she will be pushing the Labour leadership to adopt a position in favour of holding another referendum and to campaign for ‘Remain’ in that vote.
22.23 Emily Thornberry is saying: “I think these are really bad results for Labour… I think we’re going to get a kicking. I feel really sorry for all our MEPs who are going to lose their seats.”
Thornberry says members of Labour’s ruling body will need to reflect on these results. She’s not exactly following Labour lines. I think it’s fair to say she’s positioning for a future leadership contest here.
22.21 On BBC News, Emily Thornberry is representing Labour. She looks like she’s in a bad mood already. Helen Whately is talking, so perhaps that’s not a surprise.
22.19 So far, Brexit Party has come top in Corby (East Midlands), Folkestone & Hythe (South East), Telford & Wrekin (West Midlands), Rugby (West Midlands), Southend (East of England), Sheffield (Yorkshire & the Humber), Newcastle upon Tyne (North East), Durham (North East), Wolverhampton (West Midlands), Wrexham (Wales) and Cardiff (Wales).
Labour has come top in Croydon, London, but dropped nine points and the Lib Dems are a close second. The Tories are doing very badly, as predicted.
Croydon (London) result:
Lab: 23.9% (-9.3)
LDem: 22.7% (+18.8)
Brex: 22.1% (+22.1)
Grn: 11.4% (+4.4)
Con: 10.8% (-16.5)
— Britain Elects (@britainelects) May 26, 2019
22.13 We’ve got results in from Yorkshire and the Humber:
Sheffield (Yorkshire & the Humber) result:
Brex: 28.1% (+28.1)
Grn: 24.8% (+12.6)
LDem: 18.1% (+8.0)
Lab: 17.0% (-16.6)
UKIP: 3.9% (-23.8)
Con: 3.4% (-7.4)
— Britain Elects (@britainelects) May 26, 2019
22.10 It looks like Le Pen has done best of all parties in France, ahead of Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche. Funnily enough, I was looking at the LabourList 2014 liveblog, and it highlights an article about Nigel Farage claiming that his party had “common fronts” with Le Pen’s party:
22.05 Here’s the information I’ve got from the two Camden seats – Holborn and St Pancras, Keir Starmer’s seat, and Hampstead and Kilburn. Starmer has a very large parliamentary majority of over 30,000, but this shows the Lib Dems ahead of Labour. It’s very Remain-y, of course. Is this the kind of result that could launch a leadership challenge?
22.01 Oh yes, happy birthday to Jeremy Corbyn, who turns 70 today.
22.00 As I’ve already said, we’re expecting poor results for Labour tonight. The big question is whether these disappointing European election results are going to cause a big shift in Labour policy away from trying to secure some kind of softer Brexit deal and towards firm and unequivocal backing for another referendum.
The comments made by McDonnell and Chakrabarti on the Sunday shows today suggest the leadership is warmer towards the idea of another referendum than it ever has been. But Unite general secretary Len McCluskey’s comments on Pienaar’s Politics show the strength of feeling against the public vote route still at the top of the party.
“Now is the time to hold your nerve, because a general election, which is the only thing that will resolve this situation, is closer now than anything,” McCluskey said. This touches on the fact that Labour’s Brexit strategy is not designed for the European elections. To measure it against that metric would be wrong. The aim of the leadership is to ‘hold their nerve’ as only an electoral coalition comprising both Leavers and Remainers can win. The danger is, of course, that Labour could again fall through two stools as it will do tonight and did in the local elections. But the top of the party sees this as a risk worth taking, because the alternative – coming down on one side – means certain defeat.
There are three big factors complicating the situation outlined above. The first is that there has been lots of talk about a coup over the last 24 hours. Many on the left expect Corbynsceptics in the parliamentary party to capitalise on tonight’s disappointing results and use it to launch a leadership challenge. It is thought this would be engineered by Tom Watson but very unclear who would be their candidate.
The alternative to another leadership contest is we carry on like this. Losing voters, members, councillors, MPs, elections at every level, our moral standing as an internationalist & anti-racist party. Labour moderates have nothing left to lose and at least our dignity to regain
— Luke Akehurst (@lukeakehurst) May 26, 2019
It is also worth noting that a leadership challenge could be counter-productive. Just as Labour likes to let the Tories squabble amongst themselves when their infighting is an all-time high (e.g. hesitant to lay down votes of no confidence that the opposition is likely to lose), fearing that an outside attack would unite the Tories, some pro-EU activists are warning against a Brexit-based challenge. They think it could force the left to unite and have the overall effect of holding back the anti-Brexit cause within the party.
These concerns seem very sensible, and suggest a successful could would have to come from the Labour left – a previous Corbynite such as Clive Lewis of the Love Socialism Hate Brexit group. Michael Chessum, a key organiser, tweeted this afternoon: “There could well be a Labour leadership challenge this summer. People like me will get the blame for “helping the right” because we’re pointing out the tools (Brexit/free movement) they’ll use. We’re not. We’re trying to warn you. We’re trying to save this project we’ve all built.” Naturally, the pro-EU Labour left would rather shift the leadership’s position than replace the leadership.
Which brings us to the second big factor. Labour activists (led by Chessum’s organisation, Another Europe is Possible, as well as soft left group Open Labour) have already drafted a motion for conference and hope to pass it at many local parties. The motion would commit Labour to unambiguous support for another referendum and to campaigning for ‘Remain’. If the leadership reckons its Brexit policy will be forced to change in September anyway, it might be jump before being pushed.
Third factor: Boris. The expected Tory appointment of a hard Brexiteer (whether that’s Boris Johnson or Dominic Raab) as Prime Minister could, again, be interpreted either way. It makes both a general election and another referendum more likely: if it’s the former, the current strategy is favoured; if it’s the latter, Labour would be forced into a ‘Remain’ position (unless there are enough MPs to put a customs union deal on the ballot paper). A PM intent on leaving the EU without a deal may opt for a referendum over an election, as ‘no deal’ is probably an easier sell than the Conservative Party.
21.55 Labour spokespeople have been doing some expectation management today – including John McDonnell, who inexplicably predicted a 400-seat gain ahead of the local elections results. (Labour lost seats, if you needed reminding.) This morning, the Shadow Chancellor told Sky’s Sophy Ridge: “I think we most probably will get a good kicking in the election results tonight.”
He defended Labour’s approach, however, saying: “I know it was hard, it was difficult, it was a hard road to follow, but someone had to be there and say can we bring the country back together again? It would have been easy to have gone to one side, to the Remain side, and to have ignored all those people who voted Leave – that’s not the nature of our party. We’re the party that is trying to bring people back together again.”
But he also described the next steps for Labour in a way that should please anti-Brexit critics, arguing that the party should now “bring the other opposition leaders together, talk through and get agreement on a way forward and if that does include going back to the people, then yes, let’s now have that discussion”. Pro-PV activists, rejoice! Maybe?
21.50 For a quick Labour news catch-up from today, here’s a story. Sitting Labour MEP John Howarth sent an email to supporters thanking them and saying they deserved better from the party leadership.
“Had Labour’s ‘high command’ set out to lose an election they could not have gone about it in a more convincing way,” he wrote. “Time after time Labour has approached elections to the European Parliament as an inconvenience and in an approach symptomatic of the UK’s dysfunctional relationship with the EU, sought to fight on domestic issues – ‘vote Labour for the European Parliament to put more bobbies on the beat/save the NHS’, or some such implausible rot.”
He concluded that Labour’s mission was impossible. “It isn’t that Labour’s message of ‘bringing the country together’ isn’t needed, simply that the country doesn’t seem ready to come together – Brexit is unfinished business. As such it was either phenomenally naive or utterly mendacious to put in place a policy that would knowingly lose votes in remarkable numbers.”
21.45 We’re expecting Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party to get the highest vote share of all parties and be very successful in Leave areas. We also think Lib Dems and Greens are set to do well in Remain areas – including London, where Lib Dems could come first, ahead of Labour.
Turnout seems to be up in Remain areas and down in Leave areas:
147 councils – sorted by % change in Turnout with % remain 2016.
Few new London ones in this morning.
Tower Hamlets and Newham showing different pattern to other London councils so far. pic.twitter.com/yW4OS16snm
— Patrick Heneghan (@PJHeneghan) May 25, 2019
We’ve also got this forecast, which shows Labour coming in second vote share-wise (only just) and third in terms of seats:
Our forecast for this year’s UK European elections has…
Brex: 24 MEPs (+24 vs 2014)
LDem: 15 (+14)
Lab: 14 (-6)
Con: 10 (-9)
Grn: 4 (+1)
SNP: 2 (-)
PC: 1 (-)
— Britain Elects (@britainelects) May 26, 2019
Here are the estimated declaration times tonight (though one council could hold up a whole region):
— Ian Warren (@election_data) May 25, 2019
21.40 As usual with European elections, many of the votes will already have been counted, and in many areas parties will already have a fair idea of the result from Thursday, though nothing official can be announced until all polls have closed across Europe at 10pm.
There are no exit polls. But from 1opm, we’re expecting fairly swift announcements of results from the regions.
21.35 Hello readers – it’s LabourList editor Sienna here. Official projections will be reported at 10pm. Results are expected to come in thick and fast. We’re not expecting particularly good ones for Labour tonight.
Until then, I’ll take a look at the context of these elections and the latest Labour news… And if you have any updates from counts, sample results etc, please do feel free to email me via [email protected] or DM me on Twitter.