The most annoying thing about most of the commentary about the European elections is that it is dominated (as usual) by people who are only interested in elections, and entirely uninterested in what is actually going on — and what in the long run it might mean for society.
John Naughton hits the proverbial nail on the head. It’s always about the numbers, who defeated who, what this means for politics, it’s very easily forgotten that this will and does directly affect our daily lives and our futures. Who we elect will shape the polices and reactions to crises to come.
The people who voted for UKIP and the other populist parties across Europe last week don’t buy into the elite narrative about the debt crisis for the very good reason that it’s bullshit. We keep hearing soothing government and media baloney about how austerity is finally beginning to pay off, how our economies are finally beginning to “turn the corner”, etc. etc.
But, as one Irish voter put it, “I keep on turning corners and every time I get hit by a fucking train”.
It’s impossible to know how things will pan out from here, but there is one racing certainty: the era of EU expansionism is over. Gone is the dream of an ever-more-perfect union. From now on the only game in town will be retrenchment, with governments across the Continent clamouring for the repatriation of powers. In that sense, the real victor from the UK elections may well be David Cameron. All of a sudden his idea of renegotiating the settlement with Brussels looks like becoming the fashion. And he may find that Merkel, anxious to limit the erosion of the EU, may turn out to be a more accommodating negotiator than she would have been even last month. Sometimes a week really is a long time in politics.
Are we facing an end to the current phase of the EU? Do we need to revisit subsidiarity? I don’t know, but these are the questions that need to be asked and discussed.