So as the dust settles, UKIP are jubilant, Labour mildly satisfied, the Conservatives encouraged and worried at the same time and as for the Liberal Democrats, despair and gloom are the order of the day as we move towards the general election next May.
We have ‘listened’ and we will ‘learn lessons’ was the predictable mantra coming out of the mouths of the various party representatives as they emerged from the electoral rubble. But will they act on the voter’s message this time or will it be business as usual in the hope that the public’s protest vote for UKIP fades away?
Labour – Miliband needs to decide who he wants to listen to
On the face of it Labour did quite well. They have 7 new MEPs and half a million extra voters to boot, but who does Miliband now listen to?
Ed’s core vote in large areas of the North are telling him they like the UKIP message, the Blairites in the Labour Party are telling him to stand up to UKIP and that more Europe and more immigration is good for Britain.
The Brownites are not so sure. They realise that millions of Labour voters are not going to be happy struggling on with cost of living pressures, wage freezes and seeing millions of children living in poverty alongside low paid immigrants and EU migrants taking jobs, enjoying free access to public services, welfare benefits and in many cases altering the social and cultural landscape of their communities.
It’s a potential recipe for confusion at the very least. But, in the absence of an aspirational and ambitious economic narrative from Labour, clear messaging and no indication of a referendum they may struggle to turn voters away from other parties and give them the numbers they need.
Liberal Democrats – unlikely to change direction or leader
The Liberal Democrats have become irrelevant overnight and are having a real identity crisis. Unfair? Yes it is, but it is a reflection of the new political reality on the ground.
Nick Clegg to his credit stood for what he thought was right. He believed that being pro-EU, pro-migration and trumpeting successes in government, such as the raising of the tax threshold and the pupil premium, would be enough to hold their vote.
Instead the voters rejected him and his party in their millions, they preferred to say no to the EU and settle a score or two on supporting the Conservatives in coalition and the tripling of student tuition fees. They will remain the party of ‘In’ and Nick Clegg will remain leader.
Conservatives – must build trust and provide more detail than ‘find out in 2017’
The Conservatives face a problem with their core vote and will be trying to reach out to both them and those they need to attract to get over the line first next May.
Much of their core vote is still licking wounds from policies such as gay marriage, deep defence cuts and a £12billion p.a. overseas aid budget. They have also found a potential new home in UKIP with whom they may share views on our future in Europe.
Millions of voters simply do not believe David Cameron will deliver an in out referendum in 2017 – he has previous form and they do not trust him.
Two senior members of the party have already said publicly they have ruled out publishing their re-negotiation demands or explaining what remaining ‘in’ the EU will actually means before the General Election.
If the trust isn’t there will it just push voters once again to Nigel Farage and UKIP?
UKIP – need to create policies that stand up to scrutiny
The challenge for UKIP is to keep the momentum going and publish a programme for government that will be credible, costed and popular. Above all it needs to be one that can stand up to the intense scrutiny, which lets face it, is sure to come.
If UKIP can achieve that over the next year and the three established main parties cannot come up with a response to voter’s concerns then we really are in for a very interesting general election next May.