The European elections results have left the establishment shocked. It was expected that Euro-sceptics would do well, but not many predicted that, in Britain, their success would result in UK Independence Party (UKIP) becoming the party of choice for nearly a third of voters. This is the first time since 1906 that a party other than the big two – Conservative and Labour – has topped the poll in a nationwide vote.

Commentators have been quick to point out that UKIP’s success is down to the British public rejecting the notion of the European Union (EU) and fighting back against mass and uncontrolled immigration into Britain. There is no doubt that UKIP voters are passionately opposed to these two issues, but commentators and analysts have failed to note that the indignation felt towards the EU and immigration is only a symptom, not the main cause of people’s anger.

Independent polls have shown that the majority of UKIP voters are British working class people. These primarily used to vote for parties who represented their interests most. However, recently voters have become disillusioned with the two main political parties – Labour and the Conservatives – who are accused of pandering to the wealthy elite and corporations. Ultimately, the working class feel abandoned. At least they felt so until UKIP reached out to them and spoke about the issues that matter to these people most – how immigration and the EU affect their standard of living.

Some research has shown that immigration actually helps the British economy grow, however, many people working in the manual labour market have seen their wages slashed, working conditions deteriorate and chances of finding a job diminished. Whether this correlates with immigration is still debatable, but foreigners have always been an easy scapegoat when times get tough. Nevertheless, if the current government were to hypothetically slash immigration, but not do anything about living standards, UKIP voters would not abandon their ambition for Britain to leave the EU. This can be illustrated by analysing the European election results in other countries, such as Greece and Spain. These countries have no issue with immigration, yet people still voted for the anti-establishment parties, primarily for radical left parties.  For Greek and Spanish citizens, immigrants cannot be used as scapegoats to blame for the poor economy of their respective countries, nevertheless, anger still remains about lack of any job opportunity and low wages.

It can therefore be concluded that all across Europe (except perhaps Germany), the real reason for anti-EU sentiment is not hatred towards immigrants, but loss of hope for a better life. The UK government and the opposition Labour party would be well advised to take note and work towards achieving real positive change for the low-paid and working class people, thus slowly rebuilding trust that they represent these people and not the financial elite and corporations. It is important to note that tackling uncontrolled immigration is still essential as there are many who genuinely feel petrified at how quickly their society and culture is changing. However dealing only with immigration while leaving the issue of living standards unsolved will only solve the symptom, not the cause of many people’s anger towards the political establishment.

What these European elections have illustrated is that people are not prepared to give up on their ambition to have a promising future for themselves and their children, and accept more gloomy austerity while the super-rich get wealthier by the year. This election was a wake-up call for the political parties to start treating their citizens with respect again and work for the majority, rather than the few.

By Alexander Clackson 

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