The first countries have been voting in the EU parliamentary elections today, the Netherlands among them.
The Daily Telegraph’s Bruno Waterfield reports:
Geert Wilders came fourth in European elections in the Netherlands on Thursday night, confounding predictions that he would lead a populist and far-Right backlash against the European Union across the continent. Dutch exit polls put the far-Right and anti-Islam leader on 12.2 per cent of the vote, putting him behind all the pro-EU mainstream political parties. ‘Definitive’ exit polls put him behind the ruling centrist VVD on 12.3 per cent and almost three per cent behind the pro-EU D66 liberals and Christian Democrats, each on over 15 per cent. Previous opinion polls had put Mr Wilders in the lead but there was widespread controversy over his alliance with the France’s Front National and the exit polls suggested that his share of the vote fell, compared with 2009, by 4.8 percentage points.
The result is a major blow to Mr Wilders who will lose a seat in the European Parliament with his MEPs now reduced to three out a total of 26 Dutch representatives.
Even if we allow (perhaps) for the fact that some Wilders supporters may not have been prepared to tell pollsters how they voted, this looks like it will turn out to be a very bad result for Wilders. Waterfield is, I think, correct to put much of the blame on the association with France’s Front National. That’s not a relationship (as UKIP’s Nigel Farage, who has wisely kept his distance from the FN, understands) that was ever likely to contribute to Wilders’s appeal among Holland’s more libertarian (remember Pim Fortuyn?) or centrist-inclined voters.
A little later, Waterfield tweets:
’We should have gone into business with Farage not Le Pen and the National Front,’ Wilders supporter tells me.
As for Farage’s home country, Brits have voted today in both EU and local elections. The EU vote will not be counted until Sunday as this is when most of the EU votes, but the local election count has begun.
The Guardian takes up the story here.
Cameron is expected to lose fewer than 200 local councillors, partly because many of the local election contests are not being held in Tory territory. If the Tories fail to win the European elections, it will be the first time they have done so in 20 years. Labour insists that the local, not the European, elections will be the best guide to the outcome of the general election, and the best indicator of whether it is winning in the key marginals it is targeting.
Labour is right about that, I think. Nevertheless, if the Tories come third in the EU vote (my guess is that they will) it will be a further sign of the trouble that awaits them when the general election comes round next year. As for who will come top out of Labour and UKIP, I really don’t know. My feeling (if forced to pick one or the other) is that it will be UKIP, as it has to be if UKIP is to maintain its momentum into the run-up to the general election, a contest where the stakes are rightly seen as higher (a protest vote could prove very costly) and national attention turns to domestic matters.