The European Elections: the UK Electoral Map and Parties

Introduction

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 Constituencies

Fig. 1 the EP Constituencies source Democratic Audit.

 

Figure 1 from Democratic Audit shows the European Parliament constituencies. Democratic Audit is run by London School of Economics (LSE) and is well worth a visit in its own right.

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.

Table 1 2014 EP results – source

 

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.

Fig. 2 Results by constituency after 2014 EP Election (source)

The Parties

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.

Pro-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.

Brexit Party.

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.

Conservatives

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 Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)

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.

Labour

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:

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.

UK Independence Party (UKIP)

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.

 

Anti-Brexit Parties

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.

Alliance Party of Northern Ireland

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.

 

Green Parties

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.

Liberal Democrats

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 Cymru

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 Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP)

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

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 Scottish National Party

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.

 

The Independent Group – Change UK (TIG-CUK)

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.

Conclusion

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.

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. C Williamson -

    I am not a DUP supporter but I disagree with three aspects of your commentary on them: 1. They oppose the Backstop in the proposed EU Withdrawal Agreement because it would involve additional administrative controls on goods being sold from N Ireland to GB. 2. It is inaccurate and unfair to state/infer that the DUP played the same rôle to loyalist paramilitaries as Sinn Fein did to the IRA during ” the Troubles” 3. I think it is inaccurate and unfair to state/imply that the UDA has any influence or control over the DUP.

  2. Sean Danaher -

    Thanks on your points

    1) My understanding of the backstop is that it only concerns movement of goods etc. from the UK to NI and not visa versa. It is an all weather insurance policy and hopefully will never be used. It was also absolutely obvious even before the referendum that a hard Brexit (being outside the CU) would mean border checks of some sorts on the Irish Sea.

    The likelihood of the WA being revisited (including the backstop) is vanishingly small. the EU simply is not going to reopen it.

    On 2) and 3) I don’t have an inside track. The only person I know who might is Baron Stephens of Kirkwhelpington (formerly Sir John Stephens), who certainly won’t discuss such matters.

    I have no idea of the internal links between the DUP and the various Loyalist terrorist organizations. It is certainly much more complex picture than the SF pIRA link.

    Some of the following headlines are very troubling

    UDA endorses DUP’s Pengelly in South Belfast – Foster feeling the heat: https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/general-election-2017/uda-endorses-dups-pengelly-in-south-belfast-foster-feeling-the-heat-35780097.html

    DUP briefed senior loyalists on Irish language deal before collapse of talks: https://www.irishnews.com/news/northernirelandnews/2018/03/06/news/dup-briefed-senior-loyalists-on-irish-language-deal-before-collapse-of-talks-1270698/
    On that one it is widely believed an agreement was reached by SF and the DUP before it was vetoed by the UDA.

    DUP chief Arlene Foster met UDA boss days after loyalist murder in Bangor: https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/general-election-2017/dup-chief-arlene-foster-met-uda-boss-days-after-loyalist-murder-in-bangor-35776873.html

    The optics look really bad here.

    I suspect this does not even scratch the surface.

  3. Donald Manchester -

    Once again, you cannot help marvel at the willingness of people who support EU membership to pull their hats over their own eyes.
    Can you imagine a UK General Election where the two biggest budget items ( hand-outs incident on those of pension age, and the NHS ) do not get a mention? No, neither can I. But when it comes to kneeling in front of the dropped trousers of the EU, those doing so can not and will not engage with the two biggest ticket items in the EU budget.
    Why this should be defies my knowledge of human psychology but I know a rapscallion when I see one write.

      1. Sean Danaher -

        Charles thanks

        Donald has made this rather strange point on a number of occasions. I can make no sense of it (and nether can any other of the editors) but have invited him to submit an article to argue the merits of this case.

        In any event it is totally off topic here – I am mystified as to why it has any relevance to this article.

        The net UK EU contribution is about 7.1bn (https://brexitfactbase.com/3-eu-budget-and-uk-contribution/#02contribution) as compared to the 2017- 18 welfare budget £121 billion on pensioners and c£96 billion on working age people and children.

        The NHS budget is c 125bn

  4. Donald Manchester -

    So we have at lest some acknowledgement in the comments ( but not as yet in an article ) that the number one purpose of the EU in cash terms is to centralise the handing of money out to owners of agricultural land.
    Would you care to justify this compared to the two obvious alternatives of none at all and devolution to member states.

  5. Geoff -

    Gina Miller has set up “remainunited.org” which can be found on facebook, instagram and twitter. It aims to track voter intention, she claims through sophisticated technology, with the view to using our votes to limit the brexit party and other leave groups obvious advantage the European elections.

    1. Sean Danaher -

      Geoff
      thanks. Will Definitely keep in mind for my next EP post!

  6. Pingback: The European Elections: Tactical Voting Principles – Progressive Pulse
  7. Pingback: European Parliament Elections – The UK Voting Systems – Progressive Pulse
  8. Dan -

    I’d just like to point out that Annunziata Rees-Mogg is an anagram of Nuts Orange Mega-Nazi

  9. Alison -

    Please include the Women’s Equality Party

    1. Sean Danaher -

      The WEP is indeed a very fine party and very much in tune with the ethos of Progressive pulse. Link here https://www.womensequality.org.uk/
      The parties listed are those who either have seats in the last EP or have a decent chance of gaining seats. In NI for example the UUP currently held a seat in the last parliament and both Alliance and the SDLP have a good chance of gaining a seat.

      If you can point me to an opinion poll that gives the WEP a decent chance of gaining a seat, I will put them in.

Write a reply or comment Comments Policy

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Name *