Thu Jun 11th, 2009 at 11:38:41 AM EST
After the EU elections - what happens now?
Firstly, Brown has to resign soon. It would be unheard of for a party leader to continue after this much of a kicking.
This will be interesting to watch. Brown is famously stubborn, and won't go quietly. So it's likely that he'll either be deposed by his cabinet, or humiliated in public with a vote of no confidence. Either way, it's over for Brown.
Secondly, an election will have to be called soon. Brown - or his caretaker successor - may decide to hang on until next year, on the not unreasonable grounds that Labour has nothing left to lose. Replacing Brown won't change much. Even though he's loathed, a replacement will still carry the New Lab stigma. This might bring back some of the faithful, but it won't change the result.
More interesting - but not necessarily more depressing - are the implications of what Labour's final disastrous term means for UK politics, and also for Europe.
diary rescue by whataboutbob
The rise of the UKIP and the BNP are the direct responsibility of Brussels. EU Central has utterly failed to communicate or explain any of the benefits of membership to the UK's population, leaving the media field open to a drooling mob of ragingly angry semi-fascist little Englanders with a comic book vision of independence, sovereignty and empire which hasn't existed for over a century.
The older generation in the UK remains profoundly ignorant and racist, and there's almost no concept of the UK as part of Europe. Events and experiences which could build a European identity - like the Eurovision Song Contest - are treated as jokes.
In part, that's because they are jokes. In media terms, Europe suggests Eurovision, and (to older people) the heavy-handed knockabout of Jeux Sans Frontieres. Allegedly De Gaulle's idea, JSF is pure media poison. It's ridiculous, it's not particularly funny, it's impossible to feel team spirit, and it's emphatically Not Cool.
Compare this media presence with the constant river of iconic Hollywood gun play, giant explosions and definitively aspirational glamour, and Europe looks irrelevant and laughable. Add the constant media drum beat which reinforces points about unfair bureaucracy and meddling, and Europe takes on the disturbing aspect of a sinister menace, lurking just over the Channel, ready to destroy British integrity, dignity and self-respect, with a combination of third rate athletes in bobbing latex birds and irrational legislation about bananas.
And there's more - because over the last few months, in the popular imagination (such as it is), Europe has become associated with the corruption of the expenses debacle, and also with New Labour's petty authoritarianism.
To many people, Brown is a symbol of the EU. A vote against one is a vote against the other. Because elections are lost and not won, Brown has become the scapegoat for the City meltdown, for rising unemployment, for recession, and (worst of all) for collapsing house prices.
By association, Europe is also responsible and must be punished.
This is true because Britain is a proud and great country by definition. Left to itself, the UK doesn't make these kinds of mistakes or suffer these kinds of consequences.
Europe, meanwhile, is a holiday destination and occasional investment opportunity which is inexplicably populated by people who don't speak English. It's not really a place - it's a nosy neighbour. And even if it were a place, it's not home.
This is of course certifiably insane. But that's the current narrative, and everyone here will be living with it in the next election.
Will the UK drop out of the EU? The one consolation is that local and European elections play out as a popularity contest - a chance to let off steam and make one's sovereign democratic displeasure felt in no uncertain terms. This is very dramatic, but also very usual, and some Labour voters will return to the fold in a General Election.
The UKIP's strong turn out won't be sustained. This election has made the UKIP look like a serious force, but its only real policy point is a shift from Europe. If the Tories own that, and play bait and switch with it - which isn't unlikely - the UK will remain in Europe for at least another term.
Cameron has promised a Lisbon vote, and if that's overwhelmingly negative - as is likely - it may even wake up Brussels to the fact that better communication is needed. The first vote will be a strong 'No', but this won't mean instant ejection. More probably Lisbon will stall, the treaty will be renegotiated, and some or all of the Brussels mediacrats may realise that they'll have to make an effort to argue a positive view.
It's also true that there's no diplomatic or political mechanism by which the UK could leave. Secession would have to be negotiated, and - for once - there would be some reality based discussion in the UK about what that would mean in practice.
So longer term, the news isn't quite as bleak as these results suggests. It's hardly happy, and a shift to Cameron's rather peculiar vision of conservatism seems inevitable.
But it doesn't mean the UK is out yet. It's going to be up to Brussels to decide how likely secession is, and what happens next.