LIVE TEXT COMMENTARY (all times BST, GMT+1)
By Jon Kelly and David Gritten
0231 Well, that's it for tonight. Labour slumps to third place, UKIP soar to second, the BNP make a breakthrough - and David Cameron's Conservatives are, once again, on top of the pile. Can things possibly get any worse for Gordon Brown? Across Europe there are some similar themes... poor results for the centre-left, a generally strong performance from the centre-right and a number of smaller parties - including some from the political fringe - making great strides. Thanks for following us.
0225 BNP leader Nick Griffin says the "dams of lies of the old parties" have been smashed and the "waters of truth and justice and freedom are flowing again" as a result of the BNP's victories in the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber.
0223 In addition to British National Party, right-wing and extremist parties have increased their share of the vote in several other European countries. In the Netherlands, the Eurosceptic, anti-Islamic Freedom Party of the controversial politician Geert Wilders came second, while in Austria the far-right Freedom Party doubled its share of the vote. There were also gains for the right in Hungary and Finland.
0220 Although votes are still being counted, early results and exit polls indicate that conservative governing parties have came first in several countries, including France, Germany and Italy. By contrast, leftist parties in government appear to have done badly. The turnout, officially estimated at just 43.09% - was the lowest in the history of the elections. The centre-right European People's Party (EPP) is on track to secure 267 seats, which would mean it remains the biggest group in the 736-member parliament. The Socialist Group's share of the vote is set to drop six percentage points, leaving it with 159 seats. The Liberals are currently third with 81 seats, followed by the Greens with 54.
0219Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University says:
This is the first time the SNP have come first in a European election and repeats their dramatic success in the 2007 Scottish election. But although Labour have hit their lowest ever share of the vote in Scotland since they have contested elections as an independent party, they have managed to hang on to their two seats which cannot conceivably be jeopardised by the result in the Western Isles. Meanwhile, the SNP will get two seats, the Tories one and the Lib Dems one.
0218 With all but the Western Isles now declared in Scotland, the shares of the vote won by the parties north of the border is as follows: SNP 29%, Labour 21%, Conservative 17%, Lib Dems 12%, Greens 7%, UKIP 5%.
The BNP victories are not victories for democracy, they are victories of voter apathy.
Read charlesbarry's tweets
0209 Three Tories, two Labour, and one Lib Dem, UKIP and BNP MEPs in the North West. The Tories are up two points to 26%, Labour down seven to 20%, UKIP up four points to 16%, the Lib Dems down two points to 14% and the BNP up two to 8%.
0205 BNP leader Nick Griffin has won a seat in the North West region.
0202 BBC political editor Nick Robinson says:
Anything like this result in the West Midlands repeated at a general election would be really alarming for the Labour party. No wonder Jacqui Smith wants to spend more time with her Redditch constituency.
0200 Two seats apiece for the Tories and UKIP in the West Midlands, and one each for Labour and the Lib Dems. UKIP snatch a seat from Labour. The Conservative share of the vote is up one point to 28%, UKIP are up four to 21%, Labour down six to 17% and the Lib Dems down one point to 12%.
Finland's Eurosceptic True Finns party have seen a strong rise in support, winning 9.8% of the vote on Sunday. Party leader Timo Soini won 130,400 direct votes, more than any other candidate. Miter Repo, an Orthodox priest who was defrocked for the campaign, won the third most votes on a Social Democratic ticket. The governing conservative National Coalition came first nationally, however, with 22.5%, followed by Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen's Centre party with 20%. The main opposition Social Democrats took 17.8%.
I'm from Scotland and have always voted Tory. But now possibly regret it, if they make the wrong choice in splitting from European People's Party.
Read richard1295's tweets
0155Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University says:
The Labour Party were clearly the principal losers where the BNP's vote went up most. In areas where the BNP vote went up by more than three points their vote was down by eight points, whereas where the BNP's vote fell Labour's vote fell by only five points. This three-point difference is much bigger than the equivalent statistics for the Conservatives and Lib Dems. In contrast, above-average UKIP increases in their share of the vote seemed to have hurt all of the Westminster parties. Thus, it seems possible that UKIP may have picked up some of the anti-Labour protest vote as well as pinching votes from the Conservatives.
In Slovenia, the opposition Democratic Party have defeated the governing centre-left Social Democrats, according to preliminary results. The Democrats currently have 26.92% of the vote, 8.47% more than Prime Minister Borut Pahor's grouping. Both parties have done better than in 2004.
0151 Eurosceptic Tory MEP Daniel Hannan - famed for his YouTube broadcasts - celebrates his re-election by adapting Dr Suess into a song for the prime minister. "Gordon Brown, will you please go now," he sings, to jeers from what he calls "Labour yahoos".
Turnout in Romania's election has been revised upwards to 27.21%.
0153 A barnstorming speech from UKIP leader Nigel Farage. "Five years ago, they said it was a flash in the pan, when we came third in the country - well, this time, the UK Independence Party has come second and we've beaten the governing Labour party and this is the message: Gordon Brown, you broke your promise on a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty - it's time you went and I think UKIP has delivered the coup de grace. So, goodbye Gordon."
0145 Labour's leader in the European Parliament Glenis Willmott admits: "There's no doubt it's been a very, very difficult evening." She urges Labour to "stop all this nonsense" and vote get behind the prime minister. Shadow Europe Minister Mark Francois allows himself a smile. "I wouldn't want to be the person who sits down for breakfast with Gordon Brown today," he says.
Malta's governing Nationalist Party (PN) has lost the election to the opposition Labour Party (PL), according to preliminary results. The PL currently has 55% of the vote, against the PN's 41%. The green Alternattiva Party is in third place with 2%.
0139 Party representatives opposed to the BNP say party leader Nick Griffin has been successful in gaining a seat in the North West region, BBC political correspondent Ian Watson reports.
In Lithuania, Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius's Homeland Union-Christian Democrats came first with 25.69% of the vote, according to preliminary results. The party was trailed by the Social Democrats and the Order and Justice party, who won 19.06% and 12.55% respectively. The main opposition Labour Party saw its share of the vote collapse to only 8.27%.
0137 BBC political editor Nick Robinson says:
Only a few weeks ago the consensus among mainstream politicians was that - starved of publicity and Robert Kilroy-Silk - UKIP would slump. That clearly hasn't happened.
0133 In terms of vote share in the South East, the Conservatives are down by half a point to 35%, UKIP down a point to 19%, the Lib Dems also down a point to 14%, the Greens up four points to 12% and Labour down five points to 8%.
0131 BBC Europe editor Mark Mardell blogs:
Whether you look at this as 27 individual elections or a snapshot of the EU as a whole, a picture does emerge. At a time of severe economic crisis, when it's almost traditional for people to give their governments a kicking, they refrained.
Read Mark Mardell's Euroblog
0126 More bad news for Labour in the South East, beaten once again into fifth place by the Greens. The Tories take four MEPs in the region, UKIP and the Lib Dems two each and the Greens and Labour one each.
0123 Labour have slumped to fifth place in the South West, losing their only seat and dropping seven percentage points to just 8%. The Tories top the poll and win three MEPs, while UKIP finish second and earn two MEPs. The Lib Dems finish third and took one MEP. The Greens beat Labour to fourth place but miss out on a seat.
In Cyprus, the opposition conservative Disy party has just managed to beat President Demetris Christofias's communist Akel grouping. According to official results, Disy won 35.65% of the vote, 0.75% more than Akel. The two parties will each get two of Cyprus's six seats.
The latest projections from Italy suggest Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom Party will win 35% of the vote. The centre-left opposition Democratic Party is expected to come second with 26.8%. In distant third, with 3.4%, will be the Anti-Capitalist Party, the projections suggest.
0114 Lib Dem MP Simon Hughes says his party's share of the vote is holding up. By contrast, he says, "Labour is in severe trouble because they have lost a third of their vote".
French President Nicolas Sarkozy's governing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) has thumped the opposition Socialists (PS). According to provisional results, the UMP won 28% of the vote, while the PS, which dominated the last election in 2004, barely clung to second place with 16.8%. The green Europe-Ecologie party was close behind with 16.2%.
0114 Terrible headlines for Gordon Brown in Monday's papers. The Daily Telegraph is typical, speculating that Labour's "unprecedented electoral humiliation" will deepen his leadership crisis and spark talk of fresh resignations.
I am a distraught North Easterner who wants Labour to win the general election. We need to get rid of Brown to do that.
Read euni2john's tweets
0108 "Voters are willing to split their votes in a way they were not before," says Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox, noting the discrepancy between tallies for county councils and the European Parliament in many areas.
0103 ...And the South West result should be in soon too.
0102 The South East result is expected shortly.
0100BBC political editor Nick Robinson says:
The drop in UKIP's share of the vote in the East Midlands looks dramatic. But in fact their share is similar to how they are doing across the country. The difference is that in 2004 Robert Kilroy-Silk was elected for the party in the region following a huge amount of publicity.
0057 In the East Midlands, the Conservatives have two MEPs, and Labour, UKIP and the Lib Dems are on one. The Tory share of the vote is up four points to 30%, while Labour is down four to 17%. UKIP is down ten percentage points to 16% and the Lib Dems are down one point to 12%.
In Denmark, the opposition Social Democrats came top with 21.2%, but saw their share of the vote drop by 11 percentage points and consequently lost a seat. The governing Liberal party held onto its three seats after winning 20.2%, a marginally better performance than in 2004. The far-right Danish People's Party won two seats, one more than last time, with 15.2%.
0054 Green Leader Caroline Lucas says that even though the party's vote has gone up by 50%, it was likely to finish the evening unchanged on two MEPs. "If we had the same proportional representation system that Germany has we would be getting eight or nine MEPs," she adds.
00446 The BBC's Rob Cameron in Prague says:
As elsewhere in Europe, it was a good night for the centre-right. The Eurosceptic Civil Democrats clinching nine of the 22 seats up for grabs after winning 30.81% of the vote. That was good news for party leader Mirek Topolanek, and certainly better press than the allegedly naked photographs of him at Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Sardinian villa that were published across Europe last week. All eyes are now on October, when Czechs reluctantly go to the polls again.
0045 In London, the Tories take 27% of the vote and three MEPs. Labour took 21% and two MEPs, the Lib Dems 14% and one MEP, UKIP 11% and one MEP.
In Estonia, the main opposition Centre Party (KESK) is on track to come first with 26.04% of the vote, according to preliminary results. The Reform Party of Prime Minister Andrus Ansip is currently second with 15.3%.
0039 The BBC's Tim Donovan in London says the Labour vote appears to be holding up better in capital - which is expected to declare soon - than elsewhere in the country.
0035 The BBC predicts that the Conservatives will end the evening with 25 seats, UKIP and Labour with 13 each, the Liberal Democrats on 11, the Greens, BNP and SNP on two each, and Plaid Cymru on one. However, as the BBC's Jeremy Vine says, this remains just a prediction - and computer problems are slowing down the result in the South East.
Economies going down, but socialist parties across Europe lost votes and extreme right or nationalists gained votes. Why?
Read jcrei's tweets
0033 The BBC's Steve Rosenberg in Berlin says:
I think Germany's Chancellor, Angela Merkel, will be pretty happy. The Social Democrats are way behind. With a general election just three months away, it's a bad sign for them. The liberal Free Democrats have done well, the Greens too. The headline is that the centre-right has basically held its ground. If this result were repeated in the Bundestag in September, Ms Merkel could break out of the rather loveless "grand coalition" with the Social Democrats.
0031Julia de Clerck-Sasche of the Policy Centre for European Studies says:
It's a big surprise that the socialists did so badly. What we see is really the radical left and greens profited from the votes on the left that were protest votes... It looks like the far-right parties will be able to form a group.
0028 UKIP leader Nigel Farage is beaming at predictions that his party has come second nationally. "Last time we came third, everybody said it was a fluke," he grins. "This time we have come second in a major national election."
Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates's Socialist Party has seen its share of the vote dropping 18 percentage points to 26.58%, according to provisional results. The Greens and far-right parties were the main beneficiaries. The main opposition conservative Social Democrats also did marginally worse than in 2004 with 31.68%.
0023 The BBC's Jeremy Vine says the predicted share of the vote is 27% for the Conservatives, 17% for UKIP, 16% for Labour, 14% for the Lib Dems, 9% for the Greens, 6% for the BNP and 8% for others. However, results are not in yet for the South East - the most populous region.
0017 "New Labour is being eliminated at the ballot box," says left-wing Labour MP John McDonnell. "If Labour MPs and Gordon Brown don't get the message from these results, we are finished."
In Ireland, nationwide exit polls suggest the opposition Fine Gael and Labour parties will be the big winners, with 29.1% and 13.9% of the vote respectively. The governing Fianna Fail appear to have had a bad night and are predicted to win 24.1%, while the Greens look set to fare worse with only 1.9%. Sinn Fein is expected to lost its only seat after winning only 11.2%. Libertas also looks unlikely to win a seat.
Slovakia's ruling left-wing Smer party took 32.01% of the vote and gained an extra two seats, according to official results. The opposition liberal SDKU party lost a seat after coming second with 16.98%. The controversial ultra-nationalist SNS party, Smer's junior coalition partner, won its first seat after gaining 5.55%.
Pleased that the Tories have done so well. Very disappointed about the BNP. Griffin's interview was appalling.
Read JulietteG's tweets
0009Shadow Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan is ecstatic at the Conservatives' victory in Wales. "We have seen a historic moment when we topped the poll," she says. "The Labour party has taken people for granted for too long."
Ballot counting has been halted for the night in the North West constituency in Ireland following complaints that some might not have been registered properly. Libertas leader Declan Ganley said up to 10,000 votes might have been wrongly allocated. Mr Ganley came fourth in the three-seat constituency in the first count. The counting will be "re-checked" on Monday morning.
0004 "It's a disappointing night for British politics that the BNP have been elected," says Shadow Europe Minister Mark Francois. "We have to expose what they believe in."
It seems our disillusionment with politics in the UK has caught up with us and our tolerant image has taken a blow. Sad day.
Read bowlandtilidie's tweets
0000 BNP leader Nick Griffin says he is against the "huge racism" which is "directed at people who look like me". He attributes the party's success in Yorkshire and the Humber to the fact the problems of "indigenous people" are "consistently ignored by the mass media". Asked about his own chances of winning another seat in the North West region, he says it is "too close to call".
An exit poll in Poland suggests the governing Civic Platform party will win 45.3% of the vote. The opposition Law and Justice party is expected to get 29.5%. Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the predicted result indicated a sign of "trust" in his government. The son of the former Solidarity leader, Lech Walesa, is expected to become an MEP.
I'd imagine that the BNP's success will kill off any talk of PR in UK general elections.
Read davebriggs's tweets
2352 "I think this is a great personal victory for Michael Foot this evening," says the Times's Daniel Finkelstein of the man who led Labour to a crashing defeat in 1983. "He has emerged as not the biggest loser in Labour's history."
2349 Strathclyde University's Professor John Curtice says:
This is the first time that the Labour Party have failed to come first in a nationwide election in Wales since 1918. Perhaps no other result could summarise how disappointing a result this has been for Labour tonight.
2347 The Tories have topped the poll in Wales with 145,193 votes to Labour's 138,852. Plaid Cymru are third on 126,702. The three parties get an MEP each. Labour are down 12 points, the Conservatives up two and Paid up one. UKIP are also up one while the Lib Dems are unchanged.
2346 The BBC's Mark Simpson in Dublin says:
Libertas leader Declan Ganley has come fourth in the first count of votes in Ireland's three-seat North West constituency. It means he faces an uphill task to win a seat. Mr Ganley led opposition in Ireland to the Lisbon Treaty in last year's referendum. He made it clear during his election campaign that if he did not win a seat, he would step back from front-line politics and hand over to someone else to lead the anti-Lisbon campaign when Ireland votes again on the treaty in the autumn.
2343 Andrew Brons, the BNP's first MEP, says: "I don't think I need to tell you that my election is not universally popular." He adds that "despite the lies, despite the money, despite the misrepresentation," his party has managed to win through. Mr Brons continues: "I regard this as the first step towards the United Kingdom, the British people, getting freedom from the European Union dictatorship."
In Bulgaria, the main centre-right opposition party, Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), has won 25.26% of the vote, according to provisional results. The governing Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) came second with 18.36%. The far-right Attack Party meanwhile took fourth place with 11.28%.
Gary Pritchard, London says:
If the media continues to talk only about the BNP they will seem like a major force despite being a fringe party.
Have Your Say
2335Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University says:
This is the breakthrough the BNP had long been hoping for. Its share of the vote increased by exactly the two points that it was widely thought it would need to secure a seat. Meanwhile, the Labour vote fell by as much as eight points, while UKIP increased by three points, again suggesting that Labour are going to struggle to keep ahead of UKIP tonight.
In Luxembourg, the result of the European Parliament election almost mirrors that of the general election also held today. Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker's Christian Democrats (CSV) won 38.1% of the vote, while its coalition partner, the Socialists, won 21.3%.
2332 Health Secretary Andy Burnham says the election of the BNP is a "sad day for British politics". He adds: "We have to understand why people have voted BNP and try to win these people back". Mr Burnham notes that voters in Burnley - where the BNP previously had a base - have rejected the party after seeing them at close hand.
2329 The British National Party has gained its first MEP in the European Parliament, representing Yorkshire and the Humber. The Tories have two MEPs, Labour, UKIP and the Liberals one each.
Belgium's governing conservative Christian Democrats have come out top with 15.2% of the vote, while the Liberals finished second with 13%, official results show.
2325 There's an "anti-politics feel about things" tonight, former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy says. He puts the blame for this squarely on the expenses scandal.
2323 Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond says his Scottish National Party are having a "very, very good night". He says the SNP have achieved an 11% swing in Falkirk from Labour and looks set to finish on around 30%, 10 points ahead of their nearest rivals. "This will be only the second time that in the last half-century that Labour has lost a national election across Scotland," he says. "It rather belies the theory that people are voting against incumbency. We are the government in Scotland."
2322The BBC's Nick Thorpe in Budapest says: Turnout in Hungary, as well as Bulgaria and Romania, has been very low, with Romania lowest of all three - only about 21%. All were well below the already pretty low EU-wide average. In all three countries, the voters have been very focused on national politics rather than European issues.
In Hungary, the centre-right opposition Fidesz party has won a landslide victory and 14 seats in the European Parliament, with 56.37% of the vote. The governing Socialists ended up with only 17.37% and lost five of its nine seats. The far-right Jobbik ("For a Better Hungary") party performed stronger than expected with 14.77%, giving it three seats.
2315 BBC political editor Nick Robinson says:
Labour have not finished fourth - that's the only good news for them. But I suspect what most Labour activists remember about tonight will be the sight of Nick Griffin.
2313 The Tory, UKIP and Lib Dem vote has also stayed the same in East of England. Labour are down six percentage points, the Greens up three and the Greens up four.
2311 BBC political editor Nick Robinson says:
The BNP now have a national platform, a European platform. It's a huge gain in propaganda terms. But look how much the Labour vote fell. Nick Griffin is there because of the failure of other parties.
2310 No change in the East of England - the region has returned three Tory MEPs, two UKIP, one Lib Dem and one Labour.
2307 Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorskiof the governing Civic Platform party tells the BBC:
The voters appreciate our steady policies. Turnout was more than five years ago. I think Poles appreciate the importance of what is happening in Europe.
2305 Labour look to have finished fifth behind the Greens in the South West region, the BBC's Terry Stiastny says. In Cornwall in particular, Labour still look on course to finish sixth behind the Cornish nationalist Mebyon Kernow party.
Johannes, Berlin, Germany says:
Will Barroso and his un-elected Commission still boast that they are the voice of Europe now that some 57% of Europeans have denied the EU Parliament their vote?
Have Your Say
2301The BBC's Len Tingle in Leeds says: A declaration in Yorkshire and the Humber is imminent. What's apparent is that the Labour vote has being squeezed and it looks like they have lost one of their seats. UKIP, who have come second, could pick it up. But it could be that it goes to the BNP.
In Latvia, the right-wing Civic Union party, a member of the governing coalition, has come top with 24.32% of the vote, according to preliminary results reported by the AFP news agency. The Harmony Centre party is currently second with 19.53%. The New Era party of Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis appears not to have won any seats after getting only 6.66%.
2259 Former minister Michael Meacher bemoans the fact that criticisms of the government's performance have focused on personality rather than policies. There's been "nothing about ideology, nothing about vision," Mr Meacher says. "That's what we want to be talking about." He says the party can win back voters by committing to a publicly-owned Royal Mail and an expansion of social housing.
Anton V, UK says:
The quicker we realise that we are already part of Europe and it's practically impossible to leave it, the better. Politicians must stop their empty promises.
Have Your Say
2252The BBC's Adam Easton in Warsaw says:
Turnout has been estimated at around 27% - higher than in 2004, but still alarmingly low in a country where most people are enthusiastic about being in the EU. According to exit polls, the centre-right government led by the Civic Platform party did the best, taking around half of Poland's 50 seats.
2250Rickard Falkvinge, leader of the Swedish Pirate Party says:
We are writing history and we are securing civil liberties in Sweden, Europe and the world.
2250 Tory Chairman Eric Pickles is typically blunt about the Conservatives' decision to leave the centre-right European People Party in the European Parliament. "The main difference with us and the EPP is that we don't support a federal Europe," he says. But he insists his party would continue to co-operate with other centre-right MEPs.
2249 The BBC's Malcolm Brabant in Greece says:
More than half the voters showed their contempt for politicians by boycotting the polls and going to the beach instead. This in a country where voting is compulsory and people are passionate about politics. The main opposition Pasok party is heading for victory with a lead of about 3% over the governing conservative New Democracy party. Given the corruption scandals that have engulfed the conservatives in recent years, the defeat is not as brutal as it could have been.
2245Graham Watson, leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in the European Parliament says: It looks as if the Liberal Democrat group will come back into the new parliament about the same size. That means we should continue to hold the balance between left and right.
The count in Ireland's North West constituency is being delayed because Declan Ganley, the leader of Libertas, is having a discussion with the returning officer over the way the ballot boxes were opened at the counting centre this morning.
2243The BBC's Oana Lungescu in Brussels says:
EU elections have always been dress rehearsals for national elections. We expected a protest vote and we got a protest vote - one, a record low in the turnout; secondly, the low turnout has opened the door for fringe parties; thirdly, there has been a protest vote against representatives from incumbent parties. But it appears that the balance of power will remain the same in the new parliament.
2244 The Guardian's Polly Toynbee says the MPs' expenses scandal has caused so much public anger because it has "opened up the enormous inequality" in the UK. But Danny Finkelstein of the Times says it is more significant that similar stories about MEPs have attracted little attention, due to "enormous apathy" about the European Parliament.
I voted UKIP on Thursday, so I am waiting to see if we can hopefully finish second with as many seats as possible.
Read markt1985's tweets
2243 Dr Caroline Jackson, Conservative MEP for the South West of England says the low turnout in the UK is because people are "fed up" with national politics and deliberately not voting in protest. But she says it is due to a long term failure of the European parliament to "engage with the sorts of issues that people care about".
2240Martin Schulz, chairman of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament says: It is bitterly disappointing, we had hoped for a better result. In most countries it went pretty bad for us.
In Romania, exit polls suggest the two governing parties have come out top. The Social Democratic Party is expected to win 31% of the vote, while the Liberal Democratic Party is set to trail close behind with 30.4%. The far-right Greater Romania Party, which critics say is an ultra-nationalist grouping with anti-Hungarian and anti-Semitic policies, is projected to win two seats with 7.2% of the vote.
2235Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University says: On the results declared so far, there is one clear story - Labour's vote is well down on 2004 and it seems highly likely that they will get considerably less than 20% of the vote. They are in a tight battle with UKIP in order to obtain second place. Meanwhile, the Conservatives are struggling to maintain their share of the vote last time, while we still cannot rule out the possibility of the BNP winning a seat.
2233 There is no television at the South East regional count at St Mary's stadium in Southampton, and Conservative David Willetts has "gone mad" at organisers, the BBC's Mandy Baker says. Our correspondent says there was one TV in reception, but the security guard had to switch it off because there were too many people crowded round it and it was causing a blockage in the reception area. Mr Willetts was heard to say: "My party will never use this venue again" - yet another blow for Southampton Football Club, the owner of St Mary's, which has faced financial difficulties.
2232 All is not lost for Labour, new Europe Minister Glenys Kinnock says. "We did very badly in the 2004 election but went on to win the general election the following year," she insists.
2131 Robert Evans, outgoing Labour MEP for Londonsays the low turnout is "depressing". He says it looks like negative stories about national issues have sidelined European politics and the economic crisis also seems to have pushed down turnout across the board.
2130 The chairman of the UK Independence Party, Paul Nuttal says "The results that are coming in at the moment look quite good for us and it is well within the realms of possibility that we will double our representation here, and not only that we are hoping to finish second right across the country which will then sound the death knell to the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown."
2228The BBC's Duncan Kennedy in Rome says:
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's result is extraordinary. It looks like Italians will forgive him for all those recent scandals.
Exit polls in Italy suggest Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom Party will win between 39 and 43% of the vote, the AFP news agency reports. The centre-light opposition Democratic Party is set to come second with between 27 and 31%, it says.
2122 The Tories have topped the poll in East Renfrewshire - the seat of Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy. The SNP have pushed Labour into third place.
2220The BBC's Jonny Dymond in Brussels says:
There are few official results out yet, but exit polls indicate the the parties of the centre-right that hold power in most of the biggest continental countries have done very well; and that the left appears in disarray despite the recession. The second trend is falling turnout - only around 43% voted. Meanwhile the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) bloc looks like it will again hold power in the European Parliament itself.
2218 Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University says: It is beginning to look quite clear that the UKIP vote is well down in the East Midlands, where the party benefited from Robert Kilroy-Silk's candidature in 2004. It is the one obvious black spot for the party in what is otherwise a night of further modest progress for the party.
Susan, Gothenburg, Sweden says:
I have voted for the Pirate Party in Sweden because privacy is very important to me. I do not want to be monitored on the internet.
Have Your Say
2215 Labour's civil war continues. Lord Falconer - who earlier called for a debate on the leadership - says those MPs calling for change were "people who would not remotely described as people who dissent" under normal circumstances. But chief whip and the prime minister's ally Nick Brown says "we will do the party a lot of damage" with a leadership contest.
2215 The BBC's Paul Henley in Brussels says: This is the first international gauge of public reaction across Europe to the way people's government's have dealt with the global recession.
Exit polls in Sweden suggest the Pirate Party, which advocates the shortening the duration of copyright protection and allowing non-commercial file-sharing between individuals, has won a seat with 7.4% of the vote. The opposition Social Democrats and the governing Moderate Party are both predicted to finish slightly up with 25% and 18.5% respectively.
2211 The BNP have managed to increase their vote by three points in Leeds and Wakefield, to 10% and 13% respectively. They could be on course to win a seat in Yorkshire and the Humber, Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University says.
2206 Labour have come second to UKIP in Hull - the city of both Alan Johnson and John Prescott.
2206 Results from Edinburgh City Council show the SNP topping the poll on 21%, the Tories second on 19%, Labour in third place on 18%, the Lib Dems on 17% and Greens on 14%. UKIP have taken just 3% in the Scottish capital.
2205 The BBC's Steve Kingston in Madrid says: The headline of the night is that the governing Socialists have come second - the first nationwide electoral defeat for Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. The conservative opposition Popular Party will be celebrating late into the night.
2203Tim Iredale, BBC Political Editor for Yorkshire and Lincolnshire says: Labour sources say they've lost one of their two seats in Yorkshire and the Humber - leaving the party with just one MEP in the region.
Spain's opposition Popular Party (PP) has won two more seats than the governing Socialist Party (PSoE), according to partial results from Madrid. With 88% of votes counted, the PP has 42.03% and the Socialists 38.66%. Minor parties are set to win five of the country's 54 seats.
2200BBC political editor Nick Robinson says:
What we are hearing from Wales - that the Conservatives are leading the popular vote - is extraordinary. We are talking about a night that is reshaping the political map in Britain.
2156 Nick Griffin has entered Manchester town hall via a rear entrance, having arrived in a police van, surrounded by minders and police officers. The BNP leader says the behaviour of protesters is "outrageous".
2155 The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan in the Netherlands says:
It's been a spectacular victory for the far-right Freedom Party to become the Netherland's second biggest party in the European Parliament. Issues that many Dutch are concerned about are Muslim integration, the growing influence of Brussels over Dutch laws, and Dutch taxpayers' contributions to the EU budget. These explain the Freedom Party's success. However the message from voters is still mixed because pro-European parties also did well.
2154Radio 5 Live's Rowan Bridge at the London region count says: According to Labour sources, the early feelings are that nationally UKIP may come second behind the Tories. They are also anticipating that Labour might only get one MEP per region apart from London and Scotland, where they might get two MEPs.
2151 UKIP leader Nigel Farage admits he is disappointed only to have gained 3% in the North East. He blames the expenses scandal for taking attention away from the debate about the UK's membership of the European Union. "That's stopped us having a real conversation with the British public on this," Mr Farage adds.
Preliminary results from Austria suggest support for the far-right Freedom Party, founded by the late Joerg Haider, and the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZO), which Haider founded after leaving the Freedom Party, has fallen since the last national election to 13% and 5% respectively. Meanwhile, support for the list headed by Hans-Peter Martin, who has campaigned against alleged corruption in the EU, is expected to rise to 17.9%. The two main governing parties, the People's Party and the Socialist Democrats, are set to achieve similar results to 2004, with 29.7% and 23.8% of the vote.
Andrew Moysey, Rennes, France says:
What I find astonishing is the lack of interest in the European elections. I believe this is due to the general euroscepticism that the media spreads.
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2147 More on that North East result. Labour's vote is down 9% and the Tories are up 1% in the region. The Lib Dems are unchanged. UKIP and the BNP are both up 3%.
2146 In the North East, Labour have topped the poll with 147,000 votes. The Tories have won the second seat and the Liberal Democrats have come third, taking the final seat. That means no change in the allocation of seats for the region.
2143 BBC Europe editor Mark Mardell blogs:
There are rumours sweeping the parliament - and I stress only rumours at this stage - that the Eurosceptic UK Independence Party (UKIP) has done stunningly well. One suggestion is that they have come second, with 18 seats. If true, UKIP leader Nigel Farage will have a very big smile on his face tonight.
Read Mark Mardell's Euroblog
2141 A spokeswoman for Manchester City Council says BNP leader Nick Griffin has been driven away from to avoid protests that have been set up at the North West region count. She said another effort would be made to get Mr Griffin inside the building.
The Fianna Fail-dominated Irish government has suffered serious electoral losses in the wake of the recession that has gripped the state. Local election results declared on Friday already only put Fianna Fail at 25% of the vote, and this is expected to be repeated in the European election results that are declared tonight, according to an RTE exit poll. Meanwhile, the opposition Fine Gael are projected to win 30% of the vote, after securing 32% in the local elections. If the exit poll is correct, this will be the first time that Fianna Fail have failed to come first in an Irish national or European vote since 1932.
Javier Niederanven, Luxembourg says:
Unfortunately, this has not been a pan-European election but a huge dress rehearsal for 27 national elections.
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2139 Some early results for individual council areas have arrived. In Christchurch the Tories have won 34%, UKIP 30%, Lib Dems 13%, the Greens 6% and Labour just under 5%.
2135 Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University says the Greens appear to be doing well. "They may not do as well as in the final opinion polls suggested but it looks as though they will increase their share of the vote," Prof Curtice adds.
Results from The Netherlands put the far-right Freedom Party of the controversial politician, Geert Wilders, in second place with 17%, winning four seats in the parliament. The two main parties in the Dutch government, the Christian Democrats and the Labour Party, suffered a marked decline in support, finishing with 19.9% and and 12.1%. Small parties also performed well, including the liberal D66, which finished with 11%.
2133 Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague shrugs off the suggestion that the Polish Law and Justice Party - with whom the Tories plan to form a new European Parliament group - is homophobic. "Politics is different in Poland," he says, noting that a Polish MEP in the Socialist group once praised Hitler.
Exit polls in Greece put the opposition Pasok Party narrowly ahead of the conservative New Democracy (ND) party. Pasok is predicted to win 36%, a result which would see it gain no seats, while the ND is set to slip to 34% and lose two seats. The far right Laos are expected to win 7% and gain a seat.
2123 The BBC's Michael Hamilton in Manchester has heard unofficially that the BNP have finished fifth in Burnley - once thought of as an area of strength for the party.
2120 Conservative sources in Scotland have told the BBC that Labour are third in Edinburgh South West - Chancellor Alistair Darling's seat.
2118 The BBC's Judith Moritz in Manchester says protesters have blocked the entrances of the North West region count to try and prevent British National Party leader Nick Griffin getting in. She says eggs have been thrown, but there have been no serious disturbances.
2116 Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague dismisses the idea that Labour is being punished for the expenses scandal. He says voters are angry about "12 years of failure" from the government. Mr Hague expects his party's share of the vote to be much as it was in 2004.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its sister Christian Socialist Union (CSU) have lost seven seats, but still finished with a clear lead with 38% of the vote. Second was the CDU's partner in the grand coalition, the Social Democrats (SPD), with 21% and one extra seat. The big story is the third place achieved by the liberal Free Democrats, which gained 10% of the vote and 11 seats.
2113 Lib Dem MP Simon Hughes says: "Last time we came fourth, frustratingly. This time we want to come third or second." He also hopes his party can pick up an MEP in Wales.
I've voted Labour in every election for 21 years. This time I went to the Greens, partly as a protest against all politicians.
Read StephenBassett's tweets
2111The BBC's Mark Denten in Sunderland says: This should be comfortable home turf for Labour. But it looks like their vote in the North East region is being squeezed. There were some bad omens for the party at the county council elections. In Hartlepool an independent was re-elected Mayor and North Tyneside went Conservative.
French political commentator Agnes Poirier tells the BBC that the strong result for President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP is "very bewildering
but the French left is very fragmented, and in the campaign it couldn't find the momentum or muscle to talk about Europe". The Greens' third place was a strong result for them, she says, because "they were the only ones to talk about Europe - they were very effective".
In France, the governing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) has reversed the result of the 2004 election by taking 29% of the vote. The opposition Socialist Party (PS) were second with 17%. Last time, the Socialists had 29% and the UMP nearly 17%. The Greens came in third this year with 15%.
2102 It's only a rumour at this stage, but it looks like Labour have come in sixth place in Cornwall behind the Tories, Lib Dems, UKIP, Greens and the Cornish nationalist Mebyon Kernow party.
2101 The polls have closed at the end of four days of elections to the European Parliament in all 27 countries of the European Union. The turnout, officially estimated at just over 43% - was the lowest in the history of the elections. Exit polls suggest governing parties have done badly in a number of member states, including the UK, Ireland, Greece and Latvia, as voters express their dissatisfaction with efforts to deal with the global economic crisis. However, ruling parties in France and Germany appear to have done relatively well.
2059 The BBC's Mike Hamilton has been speaking to the Lib Dems in Manchester. The Lib Dems say that it is looking less likely that the British National Party will win a seat in the North West region, because in Burnley - where the BNP is traditionally quite strong - the Lib Dems are looking as if they will come first and Labour will come second. In Liverpool and Manchester, according to the Lib Dems, the BNP look to be on course to come sixth.
2055 Refresh your page now to view our live coverage of the BBC's Election Special.
2051BBC Ireland correspondent Mark Simpson says: No count in Belfast until tomorrow morning, but we could see Sinn Fein topping the poll for the first time. It could be quite a historic day in Northern Ireland - although that phrase is much over-used.
2050The BBC's Patrick Burns in Birmingham says: Talking to members of the Conservative camp this evening, they are really quite confident that they are going to be in a position to pick up three of the six seats in the West Midlands region. There is intense speculation about who will get the last seat. The British National Party have their vote concentrated in certain areas like Stoke, where they have nine councillors, but in the shires the Greens have been campaigning hard.
How will the EU recover from such a disastrous turnout? It just keeps getting lower. Grass roots campaigning please.
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2041 The bookies have bad news for Gordon Brown. William Hill are offering 9/4 that he will be out of office as prime minister by midnight next Saturday, and 6/4 that he will be gone before the next election.
2040 BBC Europe editor Mark Mardell blogs:
Turnout of around 42% would be a record low and mean all those adverts persuading people to vote have not worked. Some will argue, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, that this means people are happy and content with their lot and the job of the parliament - I have heard that argument once already! Perhaps more significant in the long run is that it seems the centre-right will have a very good night and the socialists will do badly. Quite extraordinary at a time of economic crisis.
Read Mark Mardell's Euroblog
2039 Chief Whip Nick Brown is also confident that Labour has done well in its north east heartland. He says: "It's clear that our voters are disappointed in us. But nevertheless, our vote seems to have held up here."
Sarah Rowles, UK says:
I want greater recognition of each member state's right to make its own laws. I want the emphasis to be on greater trade between nations and less on political integration.
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2030 Some good news for Labour at last? Former Europe minister Keith Vaz says the party has done "extremely well" in the city of Leicester, which he represents at Westminster. "We have campaigned very effectively on local and European issues here," Mr Vaz insists.
Preliminary results in Luxembourg's general election - held alongside the European Parliament poll on Sunday - suggest that Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker's Christian Democrats (CSV) will win 39% of the vote, up from 36%. Its coalition partner, the Socialists, appears to have won only 19%, down from 23%. Mr Juncker is the EU's longest serving prime minister.
2027The BBC's Len Tingle in Leeds says: Last time Labour came top in the Yorkshire and the Humber region, but only just. Talking to Conservatives, they say they are doing better than expected.
2026BBC South political editor Peter Henley says: There are 10 MEPs up for grabs in the South East region - that's more than in some entire counties. It seems voters have reacted to the expenses scandal in favour of the smaller parties. But in the county council elections, the Conservatives and Liberals did well. The Labour party could be wiped off the map here.
Neri Francesco, Nicotera, Italy says:
Honestly I don't believe that things will change much, principally here in Italy. There are always the same people who want to stay in power.
Have Your Say
2025 The interim government appointed in the Czech Republic - the holder of the EU's rotating presidency - to take the country to early national elections has won the approval of parliament. The non-partisan government, headed by Prime Minister Jan Fischer, won a vote of confidence in the lower house and is expected to continue in office until at least October.
2013 Plaid Cymru's Adam Price expects a good result for the Welsh nationalists, deposing Labour from top spot in the principality. He says: "We had an earthquake in Wales on Friday night and I think we're going to have a political earthquake tonight. It's between us and the Conservatives for pole position."
I'm concerned that poor voter turnout may have opened the door to some of the extreme right-wing groups.
Read TimRowlands's Tweets
2008 The BBC's Oana Lungescu in Brussels says:
For the first time, these European elections have been monitored by a group of members of the Pan-African Parliament, easily spotted because they're wearing green vests, which almost look bullet-proof. They've visited several countries, including Britain and Germany. Sunil Dowarkasing, an MP from Mauritius, concludes that "the system here is really based on trust, that's really impressive". "The only downside is voter apathy," says Marwick Khumalo, an MP from Swaziland. "You'd go to a polling station and you'd wait for a good few minutes until someone turns out, which shows us that Europe has a lot to do to revitalise interest," he adds. When it comes to enthusiasm about democracy, clearly Europe has something to learn from Africa.
2009The BBC's Reeta Chakrabarti in Downing Street says:
Labour rebels are saying that if the party gets less than 20% of the vote, that will be the trigger for a leadership challenge. But Gordon Brown has said again and again he is not walking away. It is not going to be easy to unseat him.
2007 The EU's preliminary figures show that at 43.01%, turnout across the 27 member states has indeed managed to surpass the last election's historic low of 45%.
2001 BBC political editor Nick Robinson says:
We are getting a suggestion - and it is just a tip at this stage - that Labour may have come fifth or sixth in the East of England region.
1958 International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander predicts a bad night for Labour. He says that when he was campaigning on Wednesday, every time he switched on the radio it was broadcasting bad news for the party. "That can't have helped Labour's supporters and the general public in deciding how to vote," Mr Alexander adds.
Watching the European election coverage on BBC2...a little nervous. Don't want BNP or UKIP to take a seat. Come on you Greens.
Read thedharmablues's tweets
1956 The BBC's Arif Ansari says: British National Party leader Nick Griffin is standing in the North West Region as the BNP's number one candidate. Five years ago they narrowly missed out here. They were a little disappointed about their county council results, but believe they are on course to get Nick Griffin elected.
1951 UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage hopes his share of the vote, which was 16% in 2004, will "push up towards 20%" tonight. But he fears that the way ballot papers were folded will have hurt UKIP more than other parties.
1949 Tory MP Mark Francois expects his party will do "reasonably" well tonight. He's reluctant to offer too many predictions. But he says "I'll chance my arm a little bit, I don't think this will be a great night for the Labour party".
1948 The BBC's Jonny Dymond in Brussels says: Preliminary figures from across the EU suggest that turnout is heading for below the 45% achieved in 2004. Campaigns across the continent have focused almost entirely on national issues and governments everywhere are bracing themselves for voter anger at a time of economic hardship.
1945 Across the rest of Europe, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) bloc is expected to remain the main force, followed by the European Socialists. Far-right parties are meanwhile hoping to win at least 15 seats. In the Netherlands, the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV) came second behind the governing Christian Democrats with four of the 25 Dutch seats in the parliament, according to results published on Friday.
1941The BBC's Reeta Chakrabarti in Downing Street says:
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been doing his best to be upbeat. But he's still in a great deal of danger. The rebels on his backbenches say that if these results are very bad then they will act tomorrow.
1939 BBC Scotland's political editor Brian Taylor says: If Scotland's voters are scunnered - to use a good Scots word - with Labour, my guess is that they will turn to the Scottish National Party as well as smaller parties like the Greens.
1932 There's a lot riding on these results in the UK. Labour is braced for a bad night, with Welsh Secretary Peter Hain predicting "terrible" results for the party. David Cameron will want to maintain the Conservatives' momentum following their top-placed finish in the county council elections. The UK Independence Party are confident they can finish second but the Lib Dems are determined to deny them. Voters will deliver their verdicts on the Scottish National Party's and Plaid Cymru's performance in their respective devolved governments. And while the British National Party believe they can pick up their first European seat, the Greens are hoping to increase their tally of two MEPs.
1930 Good evening and welcome to our live coverage of the European Parliament election results. It has been a massive exercise in voting - citizens in 27 countries have been choosing who they want to represent them in no less than 736 seats. We'll be bringing you all the developments as they happen and the reaction and analysis from the BBC's correspondents and guests on our television and radio output.