BRITISH Indian entrepreneur Dinesh Dhamija won his seat as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from London to lead an anti-Brexit surge in favour of the Liberal Democrat party in the European Parliament elections.
The results for the polls held last Thursday began pouring in on Sunday (26) night with the newly-formed Brexit Party taking a clear lead followed by the Lib Dems in second place.
The two main political parties – Labour and Conservatives – suffered heavy losses as the electorate used their votes to express their anger against their handling of the Brexit negotiations with the European Union (EU).
“People are just so happy to see us. Labour and Tory voters. They’re just so fed up with their own parties,” said Dhamija, founder, former Chairman and CEO of ebookers.com, one of Europe’s most successful internet travel companies.
Dhamija, a passionate supporter of remaining in the EU, had contested the Lib Dem seat from London with the wider party message of a second referendum on Britain’s membership of the 28-member economic bloc.
Lib Dems leader Vince Cable said voters had backed its “clear, honest, unambiguous message” and delivered the party’s best European elections result, which means they will have more MEPs in the European Parliament than MPs in the House of Commons.
“There is a clear lesson for Labour in tonight’s results: get off the fence. In trying to please everybody they have pleased nobody,” Cable said.
At the other end of the spectrum was the Brexit Party, led by Eurosceptic far-right leader Nigel Farage, which has demanded a say in the Brexit negotiations because it believes Britain should have left the EU by March 29, with or without a deal.
Farage, himself re-elected to the European Parliament from the South East of England, said his party had achieved a historic result.
He said: “Never before in British politics has a new party launched just six weeks ago topped the polls in a national election There’s a huge message here, massive message here.
“The Labour and Conservative parties could learn a big lesson from tonight, though I don’t suppose that they actually will.”
Farage’s success campaigning in favour of a no-deal Brexit is likely to push the ruling Conservative Party leadership candidates into hardline positions on leaving the EU.
The Lib Dems vote share rose by 20 per cent and the Brexit Party took 18 per cent of the vote in an election necessitated as a result of Britain negotiating October 31 as the latest Brexit deadline.
The Opposition Labour Party’s share fell by 12.7 per cent, while Farage’s former UK Independence Party (UKIP) and the ruling Conservatives falling way behind with and falling by 14.8 per cent and 14.6 per cent respectively.
Claude Ajit Moraes, a Labour Party candidate of Indian descent, won his seat as an MEP from London but lamented his party’s overall performance.
“We had a result that was reasonable given how difficult the context was for this election, and from that result we have to learn in the Labour party, and we have to ensure that in the coming months we build a positive agenda worthy of the people who voted for us in relation to Brexit,” he said.
The disastrous result for Labour is likely to push party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s critics to question his Brexit strategy once again and pile pressure for a clear backing for a second referendum.
“Our MEPs will go to Brussels championing workers’ rights, fighting climate change and the other issues important to our party,” said a Labour Party spokesperson.
For the Tories, prime ministerial frontrunner Boris Johnson warned that the results mean that the party risks being “dismissed” if it does not deliver Brexit.
“If we go on like this, we will be fired: dismissed from the job of running the country,” said Johnson, who is among eight potential Tory MPs fighting for the top job at Downing Street after Theresa May announced her resignation and is set to formally step down on June 7.
The newly-formed Change UK, made up of breakaway anti-Brexit MPs from the ruling Tories and Opposition Labour, failed to make a dent in the EU polls, reinforcing the view that they should have tied up with the Lib Dems in order not to have divided the anti-Brexit vote. The Green Party prospered to some degree with a three-point increase in its vote to 12 per cent.
Europe-wide, the European Parliament results reflected a major political shift as the traditional centre-left and centre-right parties were edged out by populist, environmentalist and far-right parties.
Turnout was at a two-decade high for ballots across all 28 EU countries, with issues of immigration, security and the environment top of the agenda.