Resurgent Remain and a Rebooted Revolt on the Right: Exploring the 2019 European Parliament Elections in the United Kingdom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Authors

  • David Cutts
  • Matthew J. Goodwin
  • Oliver Heath
  • Caitlin Milazzo

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Nottingham
  • University of Kent
  • Royal Holloway Univ London

Abstract

The 2019 European Parliament (EP) election took place against the backdrop of the vote for Brexit and the failure of Parliament to agree on a withdrawal agreement. Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party topped the poll and the pro‐Remain Liberal Democrats, which called for a second referendum on EU membership, returned from electoral obscurity to take second place, while other pro‐Remain parties similarly performed well. In sharp contrast, the two main parties, Labour and the Conservatives, recorded their lowest combined vote share since they became the main representatives of the two‐party system. In this article, we draw on aggregate‐level data to explore what happened at the 2019 EP election in Great Britain. Our evidence suggests Labour suffered from a ‘pincer movement’, losing support in its mainly white, working class ‘left behind’ heartlands but also in younger cosmopolitan areas where Labour had polled strongly at the 2017 general election. Support for the new Brexit Party increased more significantly in ‘left behind’ communities, which had given strong support to Leave at the 2016 referendum, suggesting that national populists capitalised on Labour’s woes. The Conservatives haemorrhaged support in affluent, older retirement areas but largely at the expense of the resurgent Liberal Democrats, with the latter surging in Remain areas and where the Conservatives are traditionally strong, though not in areas with younger electorates where the party made so much ground prior to the 2010–2015 coalition government. Lastly, turnout increased overall compared with 2014, but individuals living in Leave areas were less motivated to vote. Overall, our findings suggest that those living in Remain areas were more driven to express their discontent with the Brexit process and more inclined to support parties that offer a second referendum on Britain’s EU membership.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)496-514
JournalThe Political Quarterly
Publication statusPublished - 9 Aug 2019