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Labour suffers electoral backlash in Europe elections

The World Today - Monday, 8 June , 2009 12:37:00

Reporter: Emma Alberici

PETER CAVE: Vote counting in the European elections is almost over with Britain's Labour Party
suffering one of the biggest defeats in British political history.

Across Europe far-right parties have enjoyed a resurgence of support with the British National
Party winning its first seat in the European Parliament.

The BNP took the seat from Labour which saw its share of the vote across the country drop to just
16 per cent. Labour came third after the Conservatives and the Independence Party.

The results will have just as much impact in Westminster as they do in Brussels, as our Europe
correspondent Emma Alberici reports.

EMMA ALBERICI: Across the UK, this year's European election campaign had virtually nothing to do
with European affairs. It was more a referendum on the state of the parliamentary expenses system
and on the state of Britain's finances.

Throughout Europe, centre left and socialist parties met defeat at the polls. But no ruling Labour
Party suffered as much as the UK's.

The public turned on all the major parties, which had all faced embarrassing revelations about the
way their MPs used taxpayers' money to clear their moats, pay for their gardeners, have their
pianos tuned and their spas filled.

Smaller parties seized the opportunity to steal some of the vote. The far-right wing British
National Party which campaigned on an anti-European Union platform and took an anti-immigration
line, won their first seat in the European Parliament.

ANNOUNCER: Andrew William Henry Bronze, British National Party.

(Loud cheers)

EMMA ALBERICI: Across If this was a general election, the ruling British Labour Party would have
come third on just 16 per cent of the vote.

It was a clear victory for the Conservatives on 27 per cent. In the south west, Labour came sixth.

Daniel Hannon, the Tory member of the European Parliament who won again overnight, invoked Dr Seuss
to get his message across to the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

DANIEL HANNON: The time has come, the time is now; just go, go, go, I don't care how. You can go by
foot, you can go by cow; Gordon Brown, will you please go now. You can go on skates, you can go on
skis; you can go in a hat, but please go, please.

I don't care, you can go by bike; you can go on a zeit-bike if you like. If you like, you can go in
an old blue shoe. Just go, go, go; please, do, do, do. Gordon Brown - I don't care how - Gordon
Brown, will you please go now.

(Applause)

EMMA ALBERICI: It was a big night for the UK Independence Party, which came second, led by Nigel
Farage.

NIGEL FARAGE: Five years ago they said it was a flash in the pan, when we came third in the
country. Well this time, the UK Independence Party has come second, and we've beaten the governing
Labour Party, and this is the message:

Gordon Brown, you broke your promise on a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty - it's time you went, and
I think UKIP has delivered the coup de grace. So goodbye Gordon.

EMMA ALBERICI: In Wales, Labour lost the popular vote to the Conservatives for the first time since
1918.

After a week of resignations and condemnations, many members of the British Labour Party are
convinced that the problems of the party lie at the top.

Lawyer and mother of three Caroline Graham has been a member of the Party for more than 25 years.

CAROLINE GRAHAM: I can't see any way out of the current mess with Gordon Brown at the helm. I
suspect there isn't a way out without him either, but I would like him to go so that we at least
have a chance.

EMMA ALBERICI: A lot of people suggest that should Gordon Brown go this week, it will almost
inevitably trigger a general election. You can't have two unelected prime ministers from the Labour
Party. Wouldn't they have to go to the polls?

CAROLINE GRAHAM: I think that they would have to go sooner rather than later. They have to anyway,
go sooner rather than later; they've only got a year before it's compulsory to have an election
anyway, before the maximum term has expired.

It would probably be arguable, justifiable, for a new Prime Minister to bed down for a few months,
to just get his feet under the desk. I think there'd probably be an argument that the electorate
would accept along those lines.

But I think yes, it should go to the country. Hopefully you would get a bit of a honeymoon bounce.
But, um, if you didn't, I can't see it being any worse than it is now.

EMMA ALBERICI: Prime Minister Gordon Brown is holding firm, saying there's too much work to do to
be distracted by calls for his resignation.

Tomorrow he'll chair a critical meeting of the parliamentary Labour Party. Even if a debate is held
on the question of his leadership, the rules of the British Labour Party are such that the timing
of his departure, if he goes at all, will still be largely up to him.

This is Emma Alberici in London for The World Today.