Previous posts discussed the UK European election voting systems and the make up of the European Parliament. Here the UK situation is discussed, in terms of constituencies and parties. Parties that have been included have a likelihood (or a decent possibility) of gaining seats in the election.
The UK is divided into constituencies. Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are single constituencies while England is divided into nine constituencies.
All constituencies elect multiple MEPs and vary in size from 3 to 10 seats. Two constituencies Northern Ireland (NI) and the North East of England (NE) have three seats. Wales has 4 seats. The East Midlands Region (EM) has 5 seats. Scotland (S), the South West and Gibraltar (SW&G) and Yorkshire and Humber (YH) have 6 seats. The Eastern Region (E) and the West Midlands Region (WM) have 7 seats. The North West Region and London have 8 seats. The South East Region has 10 seats. The number of seats and 2014 results are shown in Fig. 2.
In 2014 at the last EP elections UKIP did extremely well gaining 27.5% of the vote. As can be seen in Table 1 the D’Hondt system favours larger parties (though less than FPTP), with the three parties gaining the greatest number of votes getting more than their fair share of seats but disappointing results for the Lib Dems in particular polling 6.9% of the votes but getting only 1 seat (1.4% of the seats), the same as Plaid with 0.71% of the votes. Having your votes concentrated in a small number or even one constituency helps greatly.
The results by constituency are shown in Fig.2, colour coding as in Table 1. UKIP did very well in 2014 and Labour and the Greens gained seats. The Conservatives did badly losing 7 seats. The Lib Dems had a disastrous night loosing 10 seats and only ending with one MEP.
The Party configuration has changed dramatically since 2014 when the only substantial pro-Brexit Party was UKIP. Even the DUP stood on a pro EU platform in 2014. A full list of candidates for all parties is available here.
They can be divided into pro and anti Brexit parties.
The main pro-Brexit parties are The Brexit Party, the Conservatives, the DUP, Labour, UKIP and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP). It is with great sadness to me that Labour has to go in this category. For Lexit supporters however this will be a relief.
The Brexit party has no manifesto, party structure or members but seems very well funded from anonymous sources. It seems simply a vehicle for Farage’s ambition (and his suspected Russian and/or Far Right US paymasters). It is high on rhetoric, patriotism, nostalgia for Empire and flag waving. A retreat into an idealised past. It is very much a No-Deal hard Brexit party, but has no declared vision of the future. Farage has recruited Ann Widdecombe, Annunziata Rees-Mogg and Claire Fox to stand as the lead candidates in the SW and East Midlands and North West respectively.
Claire Fox is particularly interesting. She is a former Revolutionary Socialist and IRA terrorist campaign apologist (it is ironic that, if elected, she will represent Warrington). In her role of an editor of Spiked she seems to have sold her soul to the Koch Brothers and gone from hard left to hard right – to a ultra-libertarian and climate change denier. This may give a hint as to Farage’s inner circle and source of funding.
Regarding the hidden aims of the Brexit party, one suspects Farage is very influenced by Steve Bannon and his circle. Some of the goals may to fracture the EU into a set of populist nation states, extreme neoliberalism, contracting the government spending to a size such that it can be drowned in a bathtub, privatising the NHS by stealth and returning to traditional White Christian Europe, with a submissive populace. A playground for the ultra rich, but plenty of flag waving feel-good patriotism for the ever poorer masses.
Farage has however turned down some (though not all) of the anti Eastern European and anti-Muslim rhetoric. That particular baton has been passed to UKIP.
Sadly the Brexit Party is riding high in the polls and may indeed get the lion’s share of the vote.
The Conservative party have not so far issued a manifesto. They are still hoping the EP elections don’t happen as they could well be decimated in the election, like the Lib Dems in 2014. The will have to run on May’s deal. However this is extremely unpopular with both the English Nationalist and pragmatic business wings of the party.
Many members and activists are likely to vote for the Brexit party. The grass roots will be extremely demoralised so it will be very difficult to motivate. The vote share is likely to hemorrhage both to the Brexit Party from the English Nationalist members and to the TIG/CUK from the pragmatic business members. Some may even vote Labour to give Teresa May a metaphorical bloody nose. It will be a bad and possibly very bad election for the Tories.
Some foretaste as to what might happen has come from the disastrous Local Election results loosing 1,334 seats. This was even worse than the predicted worse case scenario of 1000 seats.
The DUP have produced a Local Government Manifesto but not so far an EP Manifesto. The DUP’s main concern is with the Union and their passion to be more English than the English themselves. They are terrified by anything which weakens the Union and are vitriolically opposed to the Backstop. A detailed description of the DUP has previously been published on PP and is available here.
The hatred of the Backstop is strategically inept. The constitutional status of NI is guaranteed by the Good Friday Agreement, and is safe until the majority want a United Ireland. This will depend on Nationalists and neutrals (the Unionists by definition will support remaining in the Union), who are already in a majority and will be an ever increasing majority, over the next few decades (demographic change). The Backstop is viewed by the neutrals (and indeed many of the DUP’s own supporters) as a good pragmatic solution, and by Nationalists as absolutely essential.
Despite the flag waving rhetoric they would prefer a soft Brexit (and secretly probably no Brexit at all). Their instincts however are to tack forever towards extreme Unionism and the flag waving English Nationalists of the ERG.
Although their core base is shrinking, they will almost certainly retain their one seat. Their vote share was marginally up in the Local Elections but they lost eight seats.
It is with deep regret to me that Labour has to go in the pro-Brexit group of parties.
There was considerable hope that Labour would tack towards guaranteeing a People’s Vote, but the Corbyn faction has won out and their fence sitting plan has not changed. This has caused fury among many of their supporters, including my own wife who has cut up her membership card. James O’Brien for example tweeted:
I like & respect my local Labour MP, I like & respect many senior Labour MPs who’ve urged me to be patient but, right now, if I voted for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party I wouldn’t be able to look a Jew, an EU citizen, anyone set to be hurt by Brexit or myself in the eye ever again.
— James O’Brien (@mrjamesob) May 1, 2019
Their Manifesto states:
Labour’s priority is to get the best Brexit deal for jobs and living standards, to underpin our plans to upgrade the economy and invest in every community and region.
Labour wants a close future relationship with the EU based on our values of internationalism, solidarity and equality – maintaining and extending rights, standards and protections.
Labour respects the result of the referendum, and Britain is leaving the EU. But we will not support any Tory deal that would do lasting damage to jobs, rights and living standards.
Every credible economists thinks there is no such thing as a “Jobs First Brexit” and any form of Brexit will be damaging – and most damaging to the poorest. This has been labelled as a fantasy. They are in favour of some form of Customs Union with leverage over EU trade policy, this is possibly even more unrealistic than UKIPs position – best described as magical thinking, Cakeism and Unicorn hunting.
The idea that they can renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement is fanciful. They support a softer Brexit than the Conservatives, but as the Political Declaration leaves the future trajectory wide open and will take years to negotiate it is a very risky strategy, particularly as it is likely the Tory party will lurch to the right with its next leader.
I had hoped to be able to vote tactically for them but I can not support a party that supports Brexit. Labour are likely to loose voters to the Greens, Lib Dems and TIG-CUK in England and to the SNP and Plaid in Scotland and Wales respectively.
UKIP under Gerard Batten has tacked even further to the right and is beginning to resemble the BNP or the English Defence League. One of their candidates Carl Benjamin, who said he “wouldn’t even rape” a female Labour MP has refused to apologise and has the support of the leader. UKIP candidate Mark Meechan has been linked to racist forum posts.
UKIP’s policy includes leaving the EU by means of unilateral and unconditional withdrawal and offering the EU the choice of continued tariff-free trade or World Trade Organisation terms. No surprise there.
It is likely they will have a very poor election with much of their support hemorrhaging to the Brexit Party.
Ulster Unionist Party
The UUP is the more moderate of the two mainstream Unionists Parties and historically dominated NI Unionist politics till the rise of the DUP. The party founded the NI state and had led every single government that the province had until 2007. The UUP tends to be more middle and upper class (“Big House Unionist”) dominated. They do not have the same loyalist terrorist links as the DUP. They were anti-Brexit at the time of the Referendum. Currently they have no Westminster seats.
Just like the Tory party however they have swung very pro-Brexit. Sadly they feel the need to ape the DUP to retain electoral support.
They took the 3rd seat in the 2014 EP election, and with a fairly comfortable margin. It will probably be much tighter this time but they should retain their seat. They have done badly in the Local elections, loosing seats to the DUP on the Rght and Alliance on the Left.
Of the anti-Brexit parties, three, the Lib Dems, the Greens and TIG-CUK are fielding candidates throughout Britain (not Northern Ireland) the others are the National parties (or cross community party in the case of Alliance): Plaid Cymru, The SNP, the SDLP, Sinn Féin and the SNP.
The APNI or simply Alliance is a cross-community Liberal Party. Their policies are very similar to the Lib Dems and the are affiliated with the ALDE Group in the EP. Their Brexit stance is available here. They are staunch pro-EU party and supporters of a People’s Vote and reversing Brexit. Should that not be possible they see the backstop as essential for peace and economic stability within Northern Ireland.
They are fielding a very strong candidate in Naomi Long. They were a long way behind the last time. It is very difficult for a cross-community party to do well in NI an the votes tend to split on sectarian lines. Hopefully that may change as younger voters tend to be less polarised. They had very good Local Government election, gaining 21 seats, and if they keep momentum may have a chance of taking the final seat.
There will be three separate Green parties fighting the election, the Green Party of England and Wales and the Scottish and Irish Green Parties. It is very unlikely that an Irish Green party candidate will be elected, it is however a possibility in Scotland. In England and Wales the party has three sitting MEPs and will be hoping to make gains. In a addition to the Green agenda, they know that climate change can only be tackled by international cooperation and they are unashamedly pro-EU.
Climate change after many years of can kicking, is hopefully finally getting the attention it deserves. Extinction Rebellion is deservedly making real headlines and this time there is a hope of real public awareness. This must help the Green Party.
The Green Parties run on a pan-European Platform and their 2019 Manifesto is available here:
The time is now to tackle climate change. The time is now to protect democracy. The time is now to stand up against hatred and racism. The time is now to fight for social justice. The time is now for change in Europe to allow the fulfillment of the dreams of its citizens.
The Green parties of England and Wales and that of Ireland had very good local election results, with 192 seats gained in England and a doubling of seats in NI.
The Greens had three seats in England last time and are hopeful of picking up more seats.
The Lib Dems are an unashamedly anti-Brexit party. Their catchphrase is the rather cheesy “Exit from Brexit”, which seems to play well with voters. At the launch in east London they expressed regret that the new TIG-CUK party could not have joined forces with them. Luisa Porritt, a communications director and former journalist, said she was standing as a candidate because:
It’s a way for the electorate to signal to the government that they want a people’s vote.
I think going for the European parliament is another way of making sure a really strong liberal pro-European voice is heard in the parliament and counteract the Eurosceptism we saw in 2014.
The Lib Dems had an excellent Local Government election gaining 703 seats and are very hopeful of an extremely good night in the EP elections. The EP 2014 elections were disastrous, where they lost all but one seat.
Plaid is of course the Welsh Nationalist party striving for independence. They are very pro-EU and support a People’s Vote. At their EP election launch their leader Adam Price said Brexit only involved “moving power from one end of the Eurostar to the other.” He stated:
We are a party born of the Welsh nationalist tradition, most certainty. We seek independence for our country. But we want that independence so we can participate directly in the wider world, first and foremost as part of the European family of nations.
Mr Price said it was a “fantastic metaphor” that Theresa May was left “voiceless and powerless” at last month’s EU Summit as European leaders discussed giving the UK a Brexit extension, saying: That’s where Wales has been for centuries.
Plaid hopefully should retain their one seat.
The SDLP, founded in 1970 was for years the main Nationalist Party and lead by John Hume for many years. It is close to the Labour Party in policy terms. Hume was a political giant, criminally underrated in Britain. Northern Ireland’s Nelson Mandela to the deKlerk like figure of David Trimble. Hume has been voted Ireland’s Greatest person, beating for example, Michael Collins. His thoughts on Nationalism had a sophistication and subtlety which totally moved the debate and paved the way for the Good Friday Agreement. A great tragedy is that Hume sufferers from severe dementia, his loss as an elder statesman is difficult to overstate.
Sadly however in Northern Ireland people tend to vote for extremes and the more hard line Sinn Féin has overtaken the SDLP. The SDLP have a greater willingness to work cross-community than Sinn Féin, and are accused of not being real Nationalists.
The SDLP will also be chasing the 3rd EP seat in NI, but they lost seats in the Local Elections so if the seat does change hands it may go to Alliance.
Sinn Féin is the main Nationalist party in NI and is Socialist, sitting in the GUE/NGL group in the European Parliament. A quarter of a century ago Sinn Féin was considered to be the political wing of the Republican movement, closely associated with the IRA. This association probably no longer exists, but many are still deeply suspicious of them. In truth the DUP are the opposite side of the coin and in many ways were far worse (and most certainly have ongoing links with the terrorist UDA). The right wing British press however are keen to vilify Sinn Féin and give the DUP a free pass.
Sinn Féin have moved their stance on the EU. The were traditionally a Lexit party and still are very critical of its neoliberal tendencies but are now pro EU. They are also very pro-backstop.
Sinn Féin topped the poll in the EP election in 2014 and they will almost certainly retain their seat. Their vote was slightly down in the Local Elections, but they retained the same number of seats.
The SNP is very pro-EU Social Democratic party. Indeed their long term goal is to be an independent country inside the European Union. Some months ago there was speculation that they would prioritise a 2nd independence referendum over a People’s Vote. The independence referendum is on hold for now and the SNP very much support a People’s Vote.
The SNP currently has two MEPs, most prominently Alyn Smith. The SNP are doing well in the polls and should pick up a 3rd seat and even a 4th if some of the opinion polls are to be believed.
TIG-CUK are a newly formed centrist party with former Labour and Tory MPs. Their policies are still under development and their slogan “Politics is broken. Let’s change it” is difficult to argue with. They are unashamedly pro-EU and support a People’s Vote. Their web site is here and their policies will develop over time. It is very possible that UK politics will change and that the two party system will fracture. It is a feature of the first past the post system that makes it very difficult for smaller parties to break through unless they are geographically very concentrated. The UK badly needs PR for Westminster elections.
I wish them well and will keep an eye on the opinion polls. London and the SE seems to be the most likely places for them to get a seat.
Labour sitting on the fence makes things very difficult.
It is clear that a large number of seats for the Brexit Party will be abhorrent and likely to pull the country towards a Libertarian and Neoliberal Dystopia. Labour may be the best bet on stopping this.
However I agree with Richard Murphy on his TRUK blog that the likelihood of getting to any sort of Lexit is vanishingly small and that staying in the EU is imperative. If Brexit does happen I think the UK will move very far to the right in a manner suspected of the Brexit Party’s real agenda.
The Labour message of vote for us or get the Brexit Party feels like blackmail.
I for one won’t be voting Labour as it is the only way I think, that the Labour leadership will pay attention to the vast majority of its members and supporters who want a People’s Vote. I will be most likely voting Green, but will keep a close eye on the the NE opinion polls and may vote Lib Dem.
The next post in the European Parliament series will be on tactical voting.