Why EU elections could break Tory party – Kenny MacAskill

There’s been much written about Brexit and, unfortunately, there’s even more to come. But all its absurdity is surely encapsulated in the European elections, writes Kenny MacAskill.

Prime Minister Theresa May. Picture: Mark Duffy/AFP/Getty Images

Will the vote be held, if it is, will elected members even take up their seats and, if so, just who might be returned?

It’s also a microcosm of the increasing costs of the whole palaver. Holding the elections in 2014 is estimated to have cost £109 million. Costs are hardly likely to have fallen since then and both late notice and perhaps even increased security may well add to them.

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Even if they’re cancelled, there’ll expenses incurred that require to be met from printing documentation, booking venues and making other standard preparations. It’ll all be added to the growing bill from the haemorrhaging of Japanese industry and inward investment, to the booking of non-existent ships and the preparation for ‘Armageddon’. All for zero return as the supposed compensatory upsides have proven illusory. It’s no wonder that the Tories are desperate to avoid them, even if appears that Theresa May’s doing her best to ensure they proceed. You’d have thought that returning from her humiliation in Brussels, with encouragement, if not threats from Europe ringing in her ears, would have seen her set to with a will. The elections are set for 23 May and the European Parliament meets again on 2 July.

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Instead of getting to work, the UK Parliament has gone into recess and she has gone walkabout with her husband. Time is short but you literally couldn’t make it up.

What’s even more inexplicable about her behaviour is that if the elections do take place – and its looking increasingly likely that they will – then the Tories will get a political thrashing of Flashman severity.

There’ll be little public sympathy, let alone party support, for the posh boys and girls put up for the whipping but it’ll be brutal for the Tories as a whole.

Their vote’s already in freefall and, with the party divided, nevermind their supporters deriding the election itself, it’ll plummet to a level that a major party hasn’t seen in my lifetime. There’s hostility on the doorsteps and desertion in the ranks. The impact will be felt by local council candidates as much as Euro election ones. That’ll see increased demands for Theresa May’s head, fuelling further division within the party. The slow trickle of defections will accelerate and the civil war intensify.

If the strategy is to do a deal with Labour that gets her off the hook of holding the election, then you’d have thought she’d have prioritised that – not waltz off to the hills.

But, at best, Labour would force not just a customs union but other unpalatable surrenders, negating the whole Brexit argument and further dividing the party. What may be acceptable to Corbyn is an anathema to the ERG Tories, and the DUP seems set to reject anything but an absolutist position. All the while, the Irish border issue remains unresolved and discussions to reach an accord don’t even seem to have got around to that yet. But, why should Labour even do a deal? They face difficulties themselves if they’re seen to bail out the sworn enemy, let alone abandon a People’s Vote. Far better to let the Tories stew and, after all, Labour will do reasonably well in these elections, though not in Scotland.

They’ll most likely top the UK poll, even if at low level, with so many non-mainstream parties popping up. That at least bolsters Corbyn and sets them up for a general election. I do feel sorry for the European Parliament about the people who might well be returned as MEPs from the UK. Farage and UKIP were odious enough but his new Brexit Party are even more sinister. Sadly, they’ll probably blend in well, as it’s certain that equally malevolent parties will be returned from all across the EU. So, if the EU elections do take place, they’ll tell us little other than what a mess the Tories are in and what a price we’re all paying for this self-inflicted disaster. Although the costs might be worth paying if it’s what finally breaks the Tory Party.