Who’ll be disenfranchised in the EU elections?

The EU elections have a lot riding on them, and because of the way we elect MEPs, it’s critical for Remainers to know who has a real chance of getting in. In several areas of the UK, Remainers won’t get an MEP unless we’re really careful about who we vote for.

As my last post explained, the d’Hondt voting system is not proportionally representative. Small parties are penalised and large parties get an advantage, but with current polling data, who’s going to pull the short straw?

This YouGov/Hope Not Hate poll does split its results out into the EU voting regions, of which there are 12, although it does not poll in Northern Ireland, so only 11 regions are represented, accounting for 70 of the total 73 MEP seats.

I sat down with this data the other day and worked out roughly how the seats would be distributed under d’Hondt. It’s a bit tricky, because the data has been rounded to the nearest whole figure, meaning that sometimes you end up with a draw that would be extremely unlikely with real voting data. In these cases, I’ve tried to apportion the seats realistically, but that’s obviously a judgement call.

The table below shows how the national averages results I calculated earlier in the week (including Northern Ireland, so 73 seats) compare to the regionalised results (without NI, 70 seats)

Liberal Democrats31

The regional results really do make quite a difference to the overall outcome, which emphasises how important it is to understand which Remain party is doing well in your region and to vote for them.

But because of the way that d’Hondt works, parties below a certain vote percentage threshold won’t get any representation at all. The fewer the number of seats available in that region, the higher the threshold to win a seat. If you vote for a minority party, your vote won’t count because your party won’t be allocated an MEP seat.

In the final column of this table, the top value is the percentage of all the votes that were cast for parties that did not win a seat. I’ve then split that out in to the percentage of all votes cast for Leave, Remain and other parties that did not win a seat.

RegionNo of seats availableWho winsHow many votes
don’t count?
North East3Labour
32% in total
12% Leave
19% Remain
1% other
North West9Labour
27% in total
15% Leave
22% Remain
Yorkshire and the Humber6Tories
32% in total
5% Leave
26% Remain
1% other
East Midlands5Tories
21% in total
6% Leave
15% Remain
West Midlands7Tories
27% in total
5% Leave
21% Remain
1% other
East of England7Tories
22% in total
5% Leave
17% Remain
5% in total
3% Leave
1% Remain
1% other
South East10Tories
5% in total
4% Leave
no Remain
1% other
South West6Tories
18% in total
8% Leave
9% Remain
1% other
46% in total
16% Leave
30% Remain
32% in total
14% Leave
17% Remain
1% other

Basically, if you vote for UKIP, Plaid Cymru or Other, you’re shit out of luck, because they don’t get a single seat in any constituency. Wales is the worst, with a full 46% of voters being essentially disenfranchised. London and the South East both do much more reasonably, with only 5% of all votes not counting.

It’s also clear that because of the Remain vote is split between a number of smaller parties, more Remain voters will find their chosen parties not gaining a seat, and their votes essentially wasted.

The only way for Remainers to make sure that their votes to really count is to keep an eye on the polls and then go for the party in your region that is polling the best. I just hope that someone with better data and better maths than me will start making recommendations soon.

How Remain can win the EU elections

The EU elections are coming up on Thursday 23 May, and a lot of Remainers seem to be feeling dejected. The current polling has Nigel Farage’s Brexit party doing really well at 28% of the vote, and the LibDems, TIG, and the Greens splitting the Remain vote. Under these circumstances, it seems unfair to view the EU elections as a pseudo-referendum on Brexit, but there’s no doubt that people will do exactly that. But how the hell can Remain have any sort of impact on the vote given that the deck is stacked against us?

Well, good news first: The numbers are actually on our side.

The last EU elections were held in 2014, and the turnout was risible: 16,545,762 people, or just 35.6% of the electorate. Compare this to the Remain vote in the EU referendum, which was 16,141,241, just 404,521 fewer people than the entire turnout in 2014.

Looking at the results of the 2014 EU elections, a quick count of parties that are now explicitly or implicitly (ie Labour) pro-Brexit shows that there were about 13 million people willing to vote for parties that now support leaving the EU, and about 3 million people for Remain. Basically, the anti-EU parties have always been really, really good at getting out their vote.

But there are now a lot of Remain voters who are energised and passionate about the EU, and we need all of them to get out and vote, so every one of the 16.1 million who voted for Remain in the EU referendum, everyone who’s come of age since 2016, everyone who signed the Revoke petition, everyone who went on the People’s Vote March. Everyone who cares about our future needs to make sure they are registered, make sure they know where your polling station is, and get out and vote.

Traditionally, we British haven’t given a fuck about the EU elections, but this election is one of the most important of our time. We must show the EU that we value it, and that means getting out and voting en masse. We have the numbers, we can really do this.

If we don’t, then it’s not going to be good for the Remain parties. I have heard a lot of people saying something along the lines on “the Remain vote can’t be split because EU elections have proportional representation”. But that’s not really true.

The EU election in the UK, except for Northern Ireland, is run using the d’Hondt System, which is like the bastard child of First Past The Post and Single Transferrable Vote. Northern Ireland actually has STV.

Under d’Hondt, each party puts forward a list of candidates in order of preference, and each voter votes for a single party’s list. The party with the most votes gets the first seat, which goes to the first candidate on their list. Their votes are then divided by the number of seats they’ve got plus one, in this case two. The party that then has the highest number of votes gets the next seat, and that goes to that party’s first candidate (or the first party’s second candidate).

The UK is split into regions with varying numbers of candidates, from 3 to 10:

East Midlands: 5
East of England: 7
London: 8
North East England: 3
North West England: 8
South East England: 10
South West England: 6
West Midlands: 7
Yorkshire and the Humber: 6
Wales: 4
Scotland: 6
Northern Ireland: 3

So if you’re in a region with only 3 seats, then your party is going to need to get a lot of votes in order to win a seat.

Let’s illustrate this with the latest polling date from YouGov, which won’t provide an accurate picture of the eventual vote because it won’t take regional variations into account, nor will it take smaller parties into account either. But, still, it will illustrate the impact of a split Remain vote.

So, the full list of voting intention percentages is:

Conservative: 13%
Labour: 22%
Liberal Democrats: 7%
UKIP: 5%
Green: 10%
Change UK TIG: 10%
Brexit: 28%
Other: 1%

And under the d’Hondt system, the seats won from this would shake out as:

Conservative: 10
Labour: 22
Liberal Democrats: 0 or 1
Green: 8
Change UK TIG: 5
Brexit: 27 or 28
Other: 0

Because, with these numbers, in the final round the LibDems and Brexit have the same number of votes, so the final seat could go to either one of them.

If the LibDems got their one seat, then Leave parties would win 46% of the vote but 50.7% of the seats (37 seats), whilst the Remain parties would win 32% of the vote but only 19.2% of the seats (14 seats), with Labour vacillating in the middle with 22% of the vote but 30.1% of the seats (22 seats). Because who the hell knows whether Labour is Remain or Leave at this point.

If Labour came out for Remain in the end, then we’d see Remain win 54% of the vote but 49.3% of the seats (36 seats) vs Leave taking 46% of the vote but 50.7% of the seats (46 seats). If Labour came out for Leave, Remain would get 32% of the votes, but 19.7% of the seats (14), with Leave taking 68% of the votes but 80.8% of the seats (59 seats).

UPDATE 30 April: Labour have decided today that they will be pursuing their “alternative” Brexit, which is just as unrealistic as the Tories’ version, so they have essentially come out for Leave.

This means that, with current polling, we’re looking at Remain getting less than 20% of the seats on about 32% of the votes. This is not good.

The d’Hondt system does not apportion seats in a perfectly proportional manner, penalising smaller parties and advantaging the bigger parties. So not only is it possible to split the Remain vote, doing so will severely damage the number of seats we can win.

But, at this point it’s worth repeating the fact that there are enough Remain voters, we just have to get out and vote.

It’s also worth pointing out that the pollsters might well be overestimating the Brexit Party’s support, so the situation may not be as dire as it looks. But that’s no reason to sit on our laurels. Never has it been more important to get people out to vote.

Small footnote on Labour and tactical voting: Unless Labour come out firmly as Remain, committed to at the very least a People’s Vote, then it is far, far too risky to vote for them in the hope that they might at some point do the right thing. If Labour remain this unreliable and feckless, then the only choice Remain voters have is to vote for the most popular Remain party in their region, even if it’s the LibDems. I know a lot of people still hate the LibDems on principal, but Brexit is a way bigger issue than tuition fees ever was and in this instance, if they are the most likely to get a good showing in your region, then it’s important to vote for them.

In support of the Women’s March

To everyone going on a Women’s March today, thank you for standing up and being counted. Thank you for making a strong statement of solidarity with everyone who is, has, or will suffer from the bigotry, ignorance and selfishness of right-wing governments and their supporters.

To everyone who can’t go to a Women’s March today, firstly, I know it feels a bit crap to not be able to go, for whatever reason. But do not feel disheartened, do not feel guilty, because there are many, many things that you can do to add your voice to those marching. For me, there are two important things I am committing to do over the next few years:

1. Help progressive candidates get elected at all levels of government. Whether that’s someone at a local level in my home town in the US or whether it’s supporting someone running for MP in the UK, we need more women, more people of colour, more scientists, more LGBT people, more working class people running for office and winning.

Emily’s List helps women, https://www.emilyslist.org/
314 Action & STEM the Divide help scientists: http://www.314action.org/

More United helps progressives: http://www.moreunited.uk/
EuroMove is campaigning to halt Brexit: http://euromove.org.uk/about-us/

There are loads more organisations out there – feel free to add more in the comments.

2. Find an organisation that supports a worldview I believe in and donate. There are so many of them, I’m just going to pick one that works on issues that are important to me.

And then I’ll focus on those two things. Block out the gish gallop of shite coming from the mouths of Trump and May. Block out the naysayers and the doom mongers. Block out the cynics and the trolls. Block out self-doubt and fear. Just do something, however small, and focus on that act.

Trump and May want to drown us in a tidal wave of bullshit, a tidal wave that they know we can’t beat. It’s impossible to refute every piece of shit that comes out of their mouths, and none of their supporters would believe us anyway. So we have to find some high ground and occupy it. Give money, or time, or expertise to a group we believe in. Get involved.

Because there are more kind, progressive, thoughtful folk than there are mean, bigoted and ignorant folk, even though it doesn’t seem like that right now. And given the fact that younger people tend to be more progressive, as time goes by our society will become more progressive. And we need to nurture those youngsters so they don’t get disillusioned – they need to see us act. Not just march, they need to see us coalesce around groups and organisations and do something. And we all can.

Remember: Action is our life-raft. Taking action will help us feel more in control and less helpless. Taking action will introduce us to new friends. Taking action will make us a part of something so much bigger than ourselves. Taking action will help us secure the kind of future we want, the kind of future we didn’t realise was so fragile, the kind of future we can be proud to have helped create.

New Statesman – Welcome to the fifth estate

Kevin: Laurie Penny writes in the New Statesmen about the continued prejudice shown by mainstream commentators towards political bloggers in the UK: "Cosy members of the established commentariat eye bloggers suspiciously, as if beneath our funny clothes and unruly hair we might actually be strapped with information bombs ready to explode their cultural paradigms and destroy their livelihoods.

This sort of prejudice is deeply anodyne.

Bloggers aren't out to take away the jobs of highly-paid columnists: we're more ambitious than that. We're out for a complete revolution in the way media and politics are done."