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Euro blues for battered Labour
3:32am Monday 8th June 2009 in News
GORDON Brown has taken another mauling in the polls as Labour plunged to fifth place in the European elections for the south east behind the Greens.
In the vote for the region’s ten Euro MPs Labour came fifth after seeing more than a third of its share of the vote melt away to the Greens and smaller parties.
Labour’s Peter Skinner clung onto his seat as the party’s only MEP in the south admitting it had been a “rollercoaster ride”.
He said it had been a “tough election” blaming the “incredible outrage” at the MPs expenses scandal for the parties woes.
The count at St Mary’s Stadium was marred by technology problems and saw a British National Party candidate thrown out accused of pouring himself beer without paying.
However after the results were finally declared shortly after 1am - delayed by at least one recount at Basingstoke - the overall state of the parties remained the same as the last election in 2004.
Tories retained four seats but failed to boost its vote share, the UK Independence Party came second comfortably winning two seats, and Liberal Democrats held its two seats.
Despite a surge in support the Greens could not increase the one seat held by party leader Caroline Lucas.
She admitted it was ''disappointing'' not to win a second but said pushing Labour into fifth place and increasing the party’s vote by more than 50 per cent was “real achievement”.
Lead Tory candidate Daniel Hannan said the latest results for Labour sent another clear message to Mr Brown that he should go. He compared Labour to the closing scenes of the film “Terminator” where the robot keeps pulling its way forward "however clearly you blow the thing up".
UKIP leader Nigel Farage hailed coming second in a national election as "extraordinary" but threatened to call in the lawyers after failing to win a third seat.
He blamed a fold on ballot papers in parts of the region obscuring his party’s box which he said had benefited other anti-EU parties. He called it “outrageous” and “shameful” comparing the election in East Sussex to a “banana republic”.
Former top EU accountant Marta Andreasen, who was sacked for warning of budget abuse and fraud, took UKIP’s second seat pledging to expose how taxpayers’ money was being wasted in Europe.
Lib Dem MEP Sharon Bowles, who will head back to Brusssels, regretted the campaigning had been dominated by national issues. Her view was shared by Tory MEP Richard Ashworth who said it was a “shame the British people hadn’t had a debate about Europe.”
The BNP, who won its first two seats in the European Parliament in the North West and Yorkshire and Humber regions, failed to win enough votes for a seat in the south although pooled a third more votes.
One of its candidates, Mark Burke, was escorted off the premises by stadium security after they claimed they caught him on CCTV pouring beers from the bar without paying.
As he was ejected Mr Burke insisted he didn’t’ drink and had mistaken the beer tap for water, only realising his error when it sprayed froth. He said he had left the glass at the bar.
The night got off the a shambolic start when technical problems prevented results from the 67 districts across the south east being displayed for until after 10pm.
Candidates were also left furious that they were being kept in the dark about developments across the country as TV screens were also left blank.
The one TV in reception was switched off by a security guard because there were too many people crowded round it blocking the entrance. Tory Havant MP David Willetts blasted organisers threatening never to use the venue again. The anger mounted as the bar closed at 10.30pm.
Returning officer Mark Heath, from Southampton City Council which ran the show, said a computer system couldn’t cope with showing maps of electoral regions as well as displaying the results from the south east.
He said the bar licence was the football club’s responsibility.
The region saw a turnout of 37.8 per cent, up slightly on the 36.8 per cent in 2004.
With almost all the results from across the UK in, Labour had managed just 15.4 per cent of the popular vote to UKIP's 17.5 per cent.
The Tories had 28.3 per cent while the Liberal Democrats were in fourth with 14 per cent.
Despite the victories in north, where its leader Nick Griffin claimed a seat amid protests, the BNP had a lower share of the vote than the Greens, with 6.6 per cent to their 8.8 per cent.
Deputy leader Harriet Harman admitted that they had been a ''very dismal'' set of results for the party.
She sought to deflect attention from the Prime Minister, putting the blame for Labour's poor performance on the row over MPs' expenses which, she said, had hit the party particularly hard.
Across the 27 countries of the EU just 43 per cent bothered to vote - a record low.
The proportional representation system means that no party will gain an overall majority in the revised 736-seat European Parliament and the result will see little shift in the balance of power.
The centre right European People's Party will still have the most seats and the Party of European Socialists, within which Labour sit, are second.
Conservatives will now quit the EPP to set up a rival anti-federalist centre-righting grouping with allies mostly from central and eastern Europe.
Labour MEP Mr Skinner said: "I'm glad to be going back as part of a group that will have influence rather than shouting from the sidelines."
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