I've just returned from the National Indoor Arena, scene of the Birmingham Euro election count and the centre for the regional declaration. It was hardly a scene of Labour joy and, as predicted, we lost Neena Gill as an MEP. The region returned two Conservatives, one Labour - Mike Cashman - and a Lib Dem. Additionally, we have seen fit to send two UKIPpers to Brussels. God knows what the Belgians have done to offend us, but it must be something really bad, because these two are eye-poppingly awful.
Mike Nattrass used his two minutes of victory speech to berate the BBC for not allowing a proper debate on Europe and he was swiftly followed by their newest MEP, Nikki Sinclaire, who then accused the three main parties of being fascists, an accusation which was roundly jeered by most of those in the hall. These speeches were in contrast to those from the other four candidates
To be honest, this was nothing more than I expected. The only bright spots were the Labour victories in Birmingham, Coventry, Sandwell and Wolverhampton, where we had the largest number of votes cast. We were overwhelmed by the shire vote, though. It does have to be said that this is on a low turnout - around 28%, which is half to a third of what would be expected in a general election - and it is also on a 'free' issue. Many people don't think that the EU is really a matter of great importance, so they use their vote to give one party or another a kicking without worrying about consequences in the national parliament. The most intriguing question is where those UKIP votes will go in a parliamentary election.
Deeply disappointing to many people in the hall - not just Labour activists - was the news that BNP MEPs have been elected in Yorkshire and the North-West. Griffin gets to Brussels because of a difference of 5000 votes across the whole of the North West. Just 5000 could have stopped him.