European elections pound Britain's Brown
The prime minister is fighting to win over rebels in his Labour Party after it suffered its worst results in a century.
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Jonathan Tonge, a professor of politics at the University of Liverpool and an expert on Labour's electoral fortunes, says rank-and-file Labour MPs have been broadly supportive of Brown in comparison to more senior figures, so their reaction to the election results would be crucial.Skip to next paragraph
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"[Monday's] results could not have been worse, leaving Labour clinging on to the lifeboat that Conservatives only moderately improved on their vote share," he says.
"But if Brown does go, and I think it is more likely that he will resign rather than being forced out in a leadership contest, the reality is that the party would enjoy only a temporary bounce in the polls which a new leader brings. That would not last, given the economic problems we face," he continues.
Expenses-gate has 'driven voter anger'
In the other parties, the Conservatives won the largest proportion of votes with 29 percent. The result prompted its young leader, David Cameron, to claim that the party is on course to win the general election that will be held next year. The UKIP placed second, with 17 percent. Britain's third largest party, the Liberal Democrats, finished fourth.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage hailed his party's victory: "People voted for us because they agree that we should be friendly with Europe, that we should trade, but not that we should have our laws made there," he told the BBC.
However, most political analysts characterized the party's strong showing as largely due to voter anger over the expenses scandal.
"In my lifetime there has been never been an election so dominated by one issue to the of extent of the expenses issue," says Mick Temple, a political scientist at the University of Staffordshire. "It has driven voter anger, which has been directed mainly at Labour as the governing party rather than the Conservatives, even though both have been tainted."
"What we have also seen is a growth in substate nationalism, and what may be a new threat to the unity of the United Kingdom," he adds, pointing to the emergence of UKIP, the BNP, and success in local elections by another fringe party, the English Democrats, which wants England to have its own regional parliament similar to those in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Far right may not hold seats for long
He cautions against overestimating the breakthrough by the BNP, adding that it had succeeded largely because the Labour Party vote had collapsed. BNP's leader, Nick Griffin, won his seat despite getting fewer votes than in 2004, he points out.
"The fact now is that when the BNP are able to have more access to mainstream television and media outlets, most people will find that they are actually quite poor performers and that what they have to say is repulsive," he says.