While voting ended in Britain on Thursday at 10pm, it is only tonight after the polls close in the democratically significant city of Athens that results can start being announced across Europe.
Ballot boxes have been locked away for days, and will be resurrected in just a few hours time in order to be counted, ready for the media circus to start. For Britain’s political establishment, today is D-Day.
Nigel Farage’s eurosceptic, UK Independence Party (UKIP) has been promising an “earthquake” in British politics. If they deliver it, garnering around 30 percent of the vote and topping the polls, then the three other major political parties have a job on their hands before the next general election in 346 days.
Already we know that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is faces calls to resign from his Liberal Democrat party, who fear a wipe-out not just today, but in May next year too. Losing 10 to 12 seats in the General Election will push the Liberal Democrats back into irrelevance – and no number of apologies from their party leader, who has becoming quite accustomed to such things, will make a difference.
David Cameron, the Prime Minister and leadership of the centrist Conservative Party is also girding his loins today, as his party could easily come third in the polls. This would a result in the loss of a significant number of Members of the European Parliament for the Tories, to add to their council seat losses from Thursday night.
Cameron himself may faces a leadership challenge if results are inexplicably dire, though it is a long-shot as long as the Conservatives poll over 20 percent.
The Labour Party should have swept Thursday’s local elections, but instead Ed Miliband’s party delivered a ‘bare minimum’ result. This is widely attributed to the rise of UKIP and its increasing appeal amongst the working classes of Britain. Furthermore, polling shows that Britons regard Miliband as “weird”, and he has done little to endear himself to his party faithful in recent months – a problem that even his new, former Obama campaigner David Axelrod can fix.
Tonight, the focus will no doubt be on UKIP. But in reality it should be on the major three parties. That all of their leaders are currently vulnerable, and that all three parties are desperately trying to play down expectations is hugely significant.
No other party would dare use the “earthquake” rhetoric that Nigel Farage and co have used – because they are insecure, and unable to deliver on such things.
If however, UKIP polls second place, this would considered a disaster for Farage and his gang, even if it really isn’t. UKIP has raised expectations beyond what any reasonable analyst would have previously considered, and that could prove costly for the party’s image.
Nothing less than a victory would be sate the media establishment today. Farage, Cameron, Clegg, and Miliband will all have lost a lot of sleep last night, no doubt.