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The EU Election Was Like an Over-Complicated Board Game: Voters Either Messed Around, Or Opted Out


There is always someone who, around that time on Christmas Day night when you're so drunk you are already hungover, decides to introduce that board game. You know, the one with the 50 page rule book and multiple die that, for obvious reasons, the family has never quite cracked. "We'll get it this time," they say brightly, and everyone moans. Relatives who aren't staying the night say they "really should be going", while the rest of us divide swiftly into those who try to take it seriously, and those who, whether out of rebelliousness or sheer frustration, play in such a way as to be deliberately difficult. It was this group that in the 'game' that was the European elections last Thursday, plumped for UKIP.

They voted to make a point. Opposition groups claimed they were racist, and many were - yet many were just bloody minded. They'd no idea what they were voting for beyond something that wasn't Labour, Conservative or Lib Dem. They'd barely seen UKIP's policies - or, to extend the original metaphor, they didn't care what the rules said so long as the game foundered and the irritating relative who suggested it lost his seat.

It was like the electoral equivalent of The Settlers of Catan. I plucked my three groups out of painful family experience, but they seem to have been borne out by voting statistics. Barely a third of the UK voted, and those parties which suffered most were those two in power: Conservative and Lib Dem. Arriving at my north London polling station, I was struck by the similarities: the set up was alienating, dense information sheets were everywhere and the one dazed voter in there was vastly outnumbered by supervisors. They're too-bright smiles insisted, "we'll get it this time." But the nation was not in the mood.

Conservative candidate Ruper Myers writes in the Guardian: "I rushed to call out every example of bigotry [from UKIP] that hit the national headlines... [and] in doing so I made a fundamental mistake. This isn't a party fuelled by racism but one that taps into the feeling of disenfranchisement." Looking back at how the past week has unfolded, I would agree. Faced with parties they either hated or had never heard of, UKIP supporters went for the one party on the long, double-folded list which was anti-establishment, but still sounded familiar. The British love for 'the underdog', much as it sticks in my craw to say as much of Farage, goes ring true here. Had they paid attention to the rules- read the manifestos, checked their members and just generally taken it more seriously - it's quite possible that the very same group of rebels may well have voted Green.

They didn't. Pulling the local elections and European elections together might have seemed like a good idea, but the reality proved complicated. Hushed voices, multiple forms and boarded desks all contributed to the station's disorientating exam room effect. I had to use the online election quiz Vote Match to understand what the different parties stood for, and I'd wager I followed the election closer than most people. UKIP's policies are simple - terrifyingly simple - but simple all the same, and in that alone they appeal to jaded voters. Amidst a catalogue of tautological manifestos, under a besmirched government, in an election whose significance was so poorly explained the whole thing seemed irrelevant, is it much wonder those who voted did so for someone with whom even the Guardian's Marina Hyde admitted you could have a pint?

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