Senior MEP laments ‘hateful’ UK election

As the UK went to the polls on Thursday, senior UK Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies admitted his party leader had “failed to make a positive impact” in the election campaign.

Boris Johnson | Photo credit: Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

12 Dec 2019

Speaking to The Parliament Magazine on Thursday, Davies said, “It's been a hateful election that has done nothing to heal the divisions and bitterness generated by the Brexit referendum three years ago.”

“Boris Johnson now appears even more untrustworthy than he was at the beginning of the campaign. Jeremy Corbyn looks like a Marxist who will destroy the country's economy. And yet my Liberal Democrat leader, Jo Swinson, has failed to make a positive impact when she should have found an open goal.”

He added, “The polls are still predicting a Conservative victory.  If so, then British MEPs will be gone by January 31, but Brexit will be far from over, with years and years of negotiations ahead.  The UK will then be a third party, outside the room where decisions are taken, and arguing for a trade deal on terms which the EU will find wholly unacceptable.”


Meanwhile, Geoffrey Van Orden, the leader of the UK’s Conservative MEPs in the European Parliament has called for an end to the “gridlock over Brexit.”

Van Orden, a member of the ECR group in Parliament, said, “The voters I am speaking to just feel enough is enough. Like me, they want to end the gridlock over Brexit. But the polls reflect confusion and show things are once again close.”

He added, “By tomorrow let us hope we have a clear, bright future - getting Brexit done and starting to see the UK forge ahead enhancing its role in the world. The alternative is another hung Parliament, more anger, more delay inflicted by Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon, not one divisive referendum but two, and the ruinous combination of higher taxes, wholesale nationalisation and more borrowing to wreck our economy.”

Elsewhere, Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib has suggested that the party should not have withdrawn from as many seats.

“It's been a hateful election that has done nothing to heal the divisions and bitterness generated by the Brexit referendum three years ago” Chris Davies MEP

Speaking on TV on Wednesday, he said, “I think that the bottom line is that with the benefit of hindsight we may have not pulled out of so many seats.”

In November, party leader Nigel Farage ditched plans to take on the Tories in more than 300 seats, after what he said was Boris Johnson's “shift of position” on Brexit.

The party had planned to run candidates in 600 seats after Johnson rejected Farage’s offer of a “Leave alliance” to deliver Brexit. But Farage was under pressure not to split the pro-Brexit vote and agreed not to stand in 317 seats won by the Tories in 2017. The party has put up candidates elsewhere.

Meanwhile, a former Labour MEP has urged Scots to vote SNP to keep Boris Johnson out of Downing Street.

In a letter to a newspaper on the eve of polling day, Hugh Kerr warns against the prospect of a “hard-right Tory government” and calls for tactical voting for the SNP in Conservative constituencies north of the Border.

Kerr, an MEP from 1994-99, writes: “As a former Labour member and MEP I would appeal to Labour voters in Scotland to vote SNP and get rid of the 13 Scottish Tory MPs who gave the Tories a majority at the last election.”

“In England I would definitely vote Labour and many of my friends in England have joined or rejoined the Labour Party in order to stop a Tory victory. Also, I have known Jeremy Corbyn for more than 40 years and he is a socialist and a man of integrity and someone who can be trusted, unlike Boris Johnson.”

“The voters I am speaking to just feel enough is enough. Like me, they want to end the gridlock over Brexit” Geoffrey Van Orden MEP

Meanwhile, a report from the Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising says that at least 31 political advertising campaigns during the run-up to Thursday’s election were “dishonest or untruthful.”

While Twitter has now banned paid-for political adverts, Facebook refused calls for a temporary suspension during the campaign.

Responding to this, the Open Knowledge Foundation said the finding shows there is an “urgent” need for reform of UK electoral laws.

It has also called on politicians and parties to help “resuscitate the three foundations of tolerance, facts and ideas.”

Former Scottish MEP Catherine Stihler, now chief executive of the foundation, said, “This report shows that widespread disinformation has blighted this election campaign, and all main parties have been found guilty.”

“Twitter’s recent decision to ban political adverts was a welcome step, but it was disappointing that Facebook failed to introduce a temporary ban on political ads.”

She added, “A crackdown on paid-for adverts alone can’t stop the spread of false information – it requires parties and politicians to stop playing fast and loose with the truth.”

Elsewhere, EU citizens living in the UK have complained that they have been denied the right to vote in the election because they were unable to register for “settled status” within the required deadline.

An event in Brussels this week was told that, despite such problems, there was a surge in applications for citizenship from EU citizens in the UK wishing to vote in the election.

Recent weeks have seen applications from 132,000 EU citizens in the UK who are eligible to vote, said Michaela Benson, a UK- based researcher.

She said, “The huge increase in applications shows the importance of the election to Europeans who live and work in the UK. The lives of many EU citizens in the UK have been transformed by Brexit and many are naturally very keen to vote in this election but many will be unable to do so. This is a form of disenfranchisement.”

Roger Casale, of New Europeans, said, “Many EU citizens in the UK feel they are being treated as second-class citizens as they do not have a voice. That is why we are calling on the UK government to offer citizenship to EU citizens with settled status which would mean that EU citizens are able to vote in future elections in the UK.”

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