While nationally the EU elections story was one of huge success for the Brexit party – topping the vote with 28 seats (31.6 vote share) from a standing start, setting up a new party only a few months ago – last week’s vote was also an even bigger endorsement for the Remain parties. Overall the unequivocally anti-Brexit parties (Lib Dems, Greens, Change UK, Plaid Cymru & SNP) polled more (40.4%) than the unequivocally pro-Brexit parties (the Brexit party & UKIP), who polled 34.9%. In London the Lib Dems won the most seats – three out of eight, increasing their vote share by 20% over the last EU elections in 2014. The Brexit Party took 18% of the vote.
… and even bigger locally
Large numbers of people in west London voted Lib Dem. Our votes were collated with all the others across London, but the Lib Dems certainly made a good showing in Hammersmith & Fulham, Hounslow and Ealing, helping them go from zero MEPs to three representing the capital. The Lib Dems came top in Hammersmith with 34.3% vote share, (up 27.8% with Labour at 19.6%, dropping 13.6% to come second). In Hounslow they came second to Labour for the first time ever, polling 23.1% (up 19.2% to Labour’s 30.2% – down by 11.1%). In Ealing they also came second to Labour with 26.1% (up 20.3 to Labour’s 32.1% – down by 13.4%). In all three boroughs the Brexit Party came third, Greens fourth, with the Conservatives trailing in fifth place.
Photographs above, left to right: Winning candidates on stage at City Hall; all eight Lib Dem candidates; new Lib Dem MEPs posing for photographs in front of Tower Bridge. (Helen Cross is second from left in the middle photograph).
People in Chiswick had the opportunity to judge three of the winning candidates for themselves, as Ben Habib (Brexit Party), Seb Dance (Labour) and Scott Ainslee (Green) took part in our Hustings at George IV two weeks ago. Helen Cross represented the Lib Dems. She was number six on the Lib Dems list, so she knew from the outset that she didn’t have a chance of winning a seat, but nevertheless she was at City Hall for the count on Sunday night and was ecstatic at the outcome.
“We’d been campaigning across London and I’d had a lot of people telling me they’d always voted Labour or always voted Conservative and that they would be voting for us for the first time, so we knew it was possible, but to get three was a stretch. It was an enormous result. Getting three MEPs was amazing”. The Lib Dems are back to 2010 levels of polling, having been wiped out in 2015 and again in 2017.
“London has sent a very clear message” she told me. “There is no mandate for a hard Brexit” Turnout in Hounslow was only 38% which she puts down to “exhaustion” with Brexit and elections but she says the Lib Dems have received a lot of support locally, so much so that they have recently opened a branch in Chiswick. “We have a fantastic base now in Chiswick. There have been a lot of new members sign up nationally over the weekend and I’d be surprised if that hadn’t been reflected locally. We’ve had really young people joining – one in particular who said he usually campaigned for Labour or the Greens but wanted to support us because of our stance on Brexit”.
General election plans
Helen, who only joined the Lib Dems in 2016, because of Brexit, first stood in last year’s local elections and now plans to throw her hat in the ring for the parliamentary nomination for Brentford & Isleworth, applications for which are coming up in June. Sitting MP Ruth Cadbury won the 2017 General election with a majority over the Conservatives of over 12,000 votes. But her position may not be unassailable if these elections are anything to go by, even though she has consistently voted against Brexit herself. Senior figures in the party have said that Labour paid the price in these elections of not making their position clear. Emily Thornberry said their policy was “not clear enough”. Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said: “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.”
Photographs below: Lib Dems celebrating their victory and campaigning previously in Chsiwick