All the excuses cannot disguise this anti-European majority

It was not simply a matter of who was there to tell the story; it was more the absence of a story to tell

IF YOU doubt that that the UK election results were an even fiercer blow to the European cause in British politics than they were to Labour - and that is saying something - consider this admittedly rather crude, but still startling, calculation. By adding up all those big and small parties in Great Britain that are broadly pro-European and at least open to British membership of the single currency - from Labour to the pro- European Conservatives - you get a total percentage share of the June 10 vote of around 46.5 per cent.

Take all those parties that are opposed to the single currency - from the Conservatives to Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party - and you get a total of about 52 per cent of the vote.

Of course the turn-out was dismally low. Of course, the outcome would probably have been different if it had been higher. This under-acknowledged psephological fact is nevertheless worth mentioning, if only because it underlines how brutally the pro-Europeans have been deprived of what they could naturally have expected to be their best defence against the Tories' jubilant extrapolation that the outcome of the European elections was a vote against British membership of the single currency. Ah yes, they would have said, the Tories, not to mention the UK Independence Party, have done worryingly well.

And, yes, we know that the national opinion polls are showing a hefty majority against the single currency - at present. Even among those who bothered to turn out to vote, however, the explanation would have continued, the two pro-European parties still handsomely overtook the Conservatives and their even more Europhobic soulmates the United Kingdom Independence Party. So, the spin would have triumphantly concluded, those who are enthusiastic about the single currency, or undecided - or at least not so concerned that it would persuade them to desert their party of first choice - remain in a majority.

The fact that this didn't happen - and nobody, whatever they may say now, expected it not to happen - and that this defence is therefore unavailable is one of the real shocks in last night's results. It will help to embolden Mr Hague to give us a lot more of the same. And it will give Mr Blair a lot to think about.

Some of the pleas of mitigation are more convincing than others. Some Labour MPs are clutching, preposterously, at the idea that proportional representation ditched them. If Labour would have done (slightly) better under the first-past-the-post system, then this is an argument that has nothing to do with principle and everything to do with exploiting the weaknesses of the present system. And if, as seems likely, Labour might have done even worse, it doesn't work even on that level. And if supporters complained about voting for parties rather than candidates, then that is a (perfectly valid) case against closed lists, but not against PR itself.

Then there is the question of whether Labour was seen as forsaking its core supporters on matters of domestic policy. This is certainly worth considering; the differentially higher turnout in Tory areas than in Labour ones is striking. One of the best things about PR is that Labour cannot afford to take for granted its support in safe Labour areas. Mr Peter Hain may have a point when he says the Government is too reluctant to boast of the redistribution it has carried out for fear of the reaction in Daily Mail-land. But to go further and say it needs to change economic direction is another matter; between 1974 and 1976 the Wilson government launched its biggest-ever spending spree, only to be confronted with huge mid-term and by-election and council losses.

Finally there is the real issue of the campaign, New Labour's worst yet. True, certainly, that a timid Labour campaign would have benefited from the strategic hand of a Peter Mandelson at the tiller. Gordon Brown, the victor of Scotland and the best electoral strategist in the Cabinet, was not much engaged. Nor, for that matter, was Downing Street.

When Mr Blair yesterday went politely close to implying that a greater problem than the mechanics of the campaign was his own absence from the fray because of Kosovo, he was almost certainly right. But it was not simply a matter of who was there to tell the story. It was more the absence of a story to tell. Labour did not give the electors a reason for voting for it. And the Tories did. The issue, and the one that Mr Blair will now have to think about, was Europe.

On the most radioactive aspect of this, the euro, Mr Blair's chronic dilemma is between jeopardising his own electoral strength by pursuing a - currently - unpopular cause, and using that very strength to make it more popular. Decisions have yet to be taken, and the euro's own future is uncertain, but for the moment, William Hague's newfound momentum makes it less rather than more likely that Mr Blair, rather than, say, Mr Brown, will launch the embryonic pro-euro campaign next month. And just a shade more likely that Labour will go into the next election doggedly sticking to its current "we back it in principle if and when it is in the national interest" posture, thus pushing a decision on EMU well into the next parliament at the earliest.

But this will not be enough on its own. The danger is precisely that Mr Hague will continue to seize the initiative, as he has in the last few weeks. Yet Mr Blair has both an opportunity and a model, if he chooses to take it. The opportunity, as the Prime Minister has already realised, is that the logic of Mr Hague's stubborn belief in renegotiating the terms of membership does indeed point to withdrawal if renegotiation fails - as it certainly will. The model is Scotland, where, after trailing behind the SNP, Labour won back the intellectual argument, not least by exposing the long-term logical outcome of the nationalists' position - namely independence. It urgently needs to try the same approach on Europe.

To do that, however, Mr Blair has to make more than the purely negative case he has made so far. He has to show what the rewards are for success in his winning his battle for the reform of the EU institutions, not to mention its economic policy. He has to remind the electors that the presence of German troops in the peacekeeping forces in Kosovo is indicative of a new and welcome cohesion in European foreign policy, of which he himself has been a principal architect. And, whether the Eurosceptic press like it or not, he will have at the very least to start reminding the electors of the real benefits - direct and economic - of joining a successful euro.

Mr Hague may yet turn out to have drawn the wrong conclusion from his signal victory - namely that the silent majority who abstained on Thursday are as hostile to Europe as those who voted.

But his conclusion will be proved wrong only if Labour fights more convincingly than it has done over the past few weeks.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam