rs21 guide to the European elections: predictions and recommended votes

Anindya Bhattacharyya crunches the figures and predicts polarisation, with a right wing consolidation around UKIP and a left wing tussle between Labour and the Greens


I’m going to stick my neck out and give my predictions and recommendations for the European elections in Britain on Thursday.

First the headline news: Yes, UKIP is riding high, will probably get the largest delegation of MEPs, and may well pip Labour to the top spot in the polls. But it is doing so at the expense of the Nazis and the Tories. Overall, the right wing vote hasn’t risen.

Meanwhile, Labour is doing quite well too, eating up much of the former Liberal Democrat vote. How well remains to be seen: the stronger the leftward push, the less Labour eats into the Green vote and the stronger the left gets overall.

My prediction is: 22 seats for UKIP (up 9), 18 for the Tories (down 7), 3 for the Lib Dems (down 8), 21 for Labour (up 8), 3 for the SNP (up 1) and 3 for the Greens (up 1). I think the Greens are going to narrowly defend their existing seats in London and the South East and take one in Scotland.

So it’s not all bad news by any means. The overall picture is consolidation on the left and the right, with the Lib Dems and Conservatives suffering. The consolidation to the right is more pronounced around UKIP, while on the left it’s a tussle between Labour and the Greens.

This is in fact the best of three scenarios, which I’ll label A, B and C in order of decreasing performance for the left. In scenario B we get 25 for UKIP, 16 Tory, 3 Lib Dem, 22 Labour, 4 SNP, but no Greens. In scenario C we get 29 for UKIP, 18 Tory, 2 Lib Dem, 18 Labour and 3 SNP.

I’ll explain where the different scenarios come from and why I’ve plumped for the most optimistic one in a technical note at the end. Note how vulnerable the Greens are to being wiped out if things take a turn for the worse in the next couple of days.

Party by party

The BNP vote is slashed from 7% to 1% in all scenarios. Griffin is toast, Brons has gone already. The fascist vote will no doubt overwhelmingly switch to UKIP, but Paul Golding’s outfit Britain First is one to watch out for, and clearly the brightest star on the horizon for the hardcore Nazis.

The UKIP/Tory ratio goes from 19%/32% to 25%/22%, 30%/23%, or 34%/23% – a reversal of fortune. In 2009 the Tories were getting 1.7 votes for every UKIP vote; now UKIP is getting between 1.1 and 1.5 for every Tory one. Note, however, the total size of the right wing vote is either flat or has dropped slightly from 58% in 2009 to 48% in scenario A.

In seat terms the Tories will suffer 7 to 9 losses, with UKIP gaining anywhere between 9 and 16. UKIP are almost certainly going to have the largest parliamentary contingent, of between 22 and 29, with the Tories coming in around 17. This compares to 13 UKIP and 25 Tory last time.

Like Icarus the Lib Dems have fallen: their vote has halved. In 2009 they were breathing down Labour’s necks at 16% to 18% and 11 seats to 13. Now they are looking at polling 8% to 10% and hanging onto 3 of their seats at best (London, SE England and SW England).

Labour suffered a low point in 2009 so they will improve, the question is how much by. Net gains of 5 to 9 seats are likely, with poll ratings rising 6 to 10 points to between 24% and 28%. The Labour delegation will be smaller than UKIP’s however, between 18 and 21, even if Labour beats UKIP in terms of national vote share.

It looks like a lead for the SNP in Scotland, but estimates of how large vary wildly. They are set to pick up one or possibly two more seats to add to their current two. Plaid Cymru, however, has lost a third of its vote share and is likely to lose its sole MEP.

Green seats in London and SE London are vulnerable to consolidation behind Labour and could easily be lost, despite a likely increase in the Green vote nationally. But scenario A paints a brighter picture: their national vote tripling from 3% to 10% and a Green gain in Scotland.

Labour or Green?

Many left wing voters will be wondering whether to vote Labour or Green. In my view this is a tactical question that varies from constituency to constituency.

In London and SE England the Green seat is vulnerable, so I’d vote Green there. In SE England this defends a Green against UKIP or Labour. In London the case is even more clear cut: UKIP will take the Green seat if the Green vote doesn’t hold up. In Scotland there is a good chance of the Greens winning a seat, so I’d vote for them as an independence-supporting left alternative to both the SNP and Labour.

In SW England vote Labour. Glyn Ford, one of the very best Labour MEPs, lost his seat there in 2009. The Greens don’t stand a chance and Labour might unseat a Lib Dem.

In W Midlands vote Labour. The Greens won’t make it, while Labour is likely to unseat a Lib Dem and possibly block UKIP. Ditto E Midlands, where again Labour can take one from the Lib Dems but the Greens can’t win. In Yorks & Humber it’s a straight UKIP versus Labour contest for who can get votes from the Tories and Lib Dems. Vote Labour there I’d say.

In NW England and E England: Labour could win a seat in the North West from the Tories or the Lib Dems, and one in East of England from the Lib Dems. But in both seats the Greens have an outside chance of squeezing in. Take your pick: I’d probably go with the Greens. In NE England, UKIP are going to take the Lib Dem’s seat in pretty much every scenario, so do what the hell you like. In Wales Labour looks likely to make gains from Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems.

Technical notes

It’s all in a spreadsheet, naturally:

The data for the 2009 election is taken from the BBC site. For the 2014 predictions I used regional and constituency results from recent opinion polls and an online calculator to figure out seat allocation under the d’Hondt method.

Poll data for scenario A is taken from a YouGov poll conducted on 13 and 14 May. Its regional breakdown isn’t quite at constituency level, but fingers crossed this shouldn’t make a huge difference. It might overestimate UKIP in Wales while underestimating Labour though.

The poll data for scenarios B and C come from a ComRes poll conducted between 9 and 11 May. Scenario C counts only those who are certain to vote. Scenario B includes everyone who says they are likely to vote. Note that the stricter the criterion, the better things get for UKIP. A high turnout means more normal voters means less UKIP proportionally.

Why did I go for A rather than B or C? Partly because I trust YouGov’s track record. But also their polling caught some of the recent backlash against UKIP’s racism, which I suspect has boosted the turnout on the left and put Farage’s crew on the defensive. If this trend continues for the next couple of days I think YouGov will be closer to reality than ComRes.


  1. Try again. A certain Mr T Ali won 2000 votes for Socialist Unity (1979, electoral ‘love-in’ between the IMG [and yes — I hold my hands up — I was a member] and the SWP). The French LCR could ‘pick-up’ 10,000 votes in a ‘village’ outside of Lyons. Ton comprendre? It has taken 25 years (let’s say that again; TWENTY-FIVE years) for the Danish Red-Green Alliance to register nine-to-ten per cent
    Piss-ooor analogu But sone people think that LU will achieve all that in a blink. I have an ‘Owen’ print on a tea-towel; very ‘romantic’ but it is just a tea-towel.

  2. Now where was I? Ah … Yes … I’ve been ‘with’ the FI for most of my adult life. I throw my hands up in self-defence. I was that noxious editor of “International Viewpoint” when it it was still in print format. Nevertheless, I joined the IMG when it was having, something, of a ‘love-in’ with the SWP; Socialist Unity was the un-loved child. A certain Mr T Ali secured 2,500 votes in Southall (1979). The French LCR could get 10,000 votes in a ‘god-for-saken’ village on the outskirts of Marseilles. Do you see where I’m coming from? Elections are a measurement. No more, no less. It has taken 25 years (let’s say that again; “twenty-five years”) for the the Danish Red-Green Alliance to register a nine-to-ten per cent rating in their national opinion polls. If LU, here in the ‘British’ archipelago, can muster a handful of local councillors it would be a ‘minor miracle’. Apologies for that last analogy; being brought up by a couple of altruistic Christian Socialists does mean I’m more than capable of quoting from the Bible as well as what Trotsky wrote in 1905 … zzzzzzzz

  3. Very astute. But you probably didn’t, necessarily, want to hear that. We all make compromises. I should know. I’ve been attached, in one languid form or other, to the FI for most of my adult life. Joined the IMG in 1979 via (so-called) Revolution Youth. I was chair of Leicester Youth CND. In retrospect — always a good ‘get-out-gaol’ card — I wouldn’t have voted for me

  4. voted for Lutfur Rahman &co locally. was gonna vote Green in the Euros but reckon their London seat is safe so went for NHA Party instead. thanks Ian for the heads-up. also: there are some minor errors in my calculations, reckon it might be 25 for UKIP and 3 for LDs (miscomputed Scotland), will sort tomorrow when I don’t see dancing percentages every time I shut my eyes.

  5. Jack – TUSC have no chance of doing well anywhere, never mind winning a seat. The Greens have the chance to increase their vote and an increase in the Green vote is an increase in the progressive vote that represents as far an opposite to UKIP as any Party with MEPs.
    I also don’t think it’s accurate or helpful to have a narrow view of what anti-austerity means. Do you only qualify as anti-austerity if you oppose each and every cut and would be prepared to vote against them if a councillor despite threats of illegality? I think if that is the definition, then you would have a very small number of anti-austerity people. The fact that Labour councillors vote who oppose cuts still vote for them, and the fact the Greens are against cuts but have local parties who implement them, highlights the contradictions of reformism. That is the difference between being a revolutionary socialist and a left reformist. Just like I don’t think you have to be in favour of physically no platforming fascists to be against fascism, I don’t think you have to believe that no compromises have to made to be against cuts. These contradictions mean that for us, we cannot join or cheerlead these parties. But I don’t think it can preclude us calling a vote for them.
    In terms of Left Unity, despite any problems, it is still broader and more serious than TUSC. There is no prospect of TUSC or no2EU or any other small parties doing well.

  6. Funny really we all offer our positions and argue them out at great length. We also argue with our family, friends and workmates in order to influence their voting intentions. And yet at the same time revolutionary socialists are simply too few and marginal to the working class to stand in these elections under our own banner. As for the elections they seem distant and remote to most working people. Once the Euro elections are concluded only a small minority of people, mostly political anoraks, will follow the doings of their elected representatives in the Euro parliament. Do comrades remember how little attention the election of five Trotskyist MEPs received? Probably not most comrades probably failed to even notice. And so with the Euro elections the party machines vie for votes with rightist protest parties and semi-fascists content in the knowledge that hours after the election is concluded their seats on the gravy train are safe for a few more years. As for the council elections we know that party machine and apolitical cliques rule the roost with the result that the goings on the council chamber are less relevant than the decisions made by those councillors who are members of the ‘cabinet’ and the appointed executive. However in some councils it is possible for candidates from leftist groups to win election if they choose their ground carefully. Sadly on the whole those comrades who choose to run in such local elections do not view their few successes as the result of local factors and therefore as atypical but as the first great steps towards building a new mass workers party. The workers of course ignore their efforts and stay at home especially if it is raining. So vote how we will the sad truth is we shall make very little difference indeed to the eventual conclusion of these glorified opinion poles. Happily the power of our class is not located in the ballot box but in our collective strength in our workplaces and unions.

  7. I can understand your criticism of no2EU Hanif, however for TUSC I believe the situation is different. Whilst TUSC has a small starting base and is not a Marxist organisation it is still a better choice than green. The green party are not anti-austerity, look at Brighton. Furthermore, by encouraging voting for the green party as the only choice, we take away the ability for any actual left alternative. You mention that the situation would be different for Left Unity, how? Left Unity (who explicitly exclude the two largest far-left parties in Britain) have no council seats whatsoever and limited local support beyond a handful of minor far-left sects.

    In the EU elections voting ANYONE other than UKIP while take seats away due to the voting system in place. The green party (who are lying to gain seats) are not only a middle class party, out of touch with the needs of the working class, but not the only choice. The EU elections are where minor parties can do well, but why must that be the greens?

  8. Not only do NO2EU and TUSC not have a chance of winning a seat, but they don’t represent manifestations of a credible socialist challenge in these elections. It may be the right thing to vote TUSC in localities where the candidates have a local record, but, beyond that, they will achieve zilch. I’m still very unclear as to why the SP spends money on deposits and campaigns that just set TUSC up for a string of embarrassing results. I think if Left Unity were standing, it would be a different case, as that seems to represent more than a far left sect plus a limited number of allies. Obviously how successful Left Unity is in the long term remains to be seen.
    Personally I would vote Labour if I could stop UKIP and Green otherwise. The argument that Labour has links to the class is credible, but rings increasingly hollow year by year. John McDonnell failed miserably to get on the leadershop ballot. Diane Abbott failed miserably in her attempt for the leadership. The TUs candidate ‘Red’ Ed has sought to downgrade Labour’s links to the unions and in return the unions have downgraded their funding. I believe it would remain an ultra left position to claim that Labour is finished, or that voting Labour is equivalent to voting for the tories. However using the class-link as a reason for not voting Green rings less and less true.
    Labour has proven its willingness to move right in the absence of a left challenge. Maybe a left of centre green party eating into the Labour vote would be more likely to give confidence to trade unions challenging them, than a whole sale Labour resurgence under the policies of Miliband?
    I think this is a crap year for elections in the sense that the right will do well through UKIP, the Labour leadership will do well because of the lib dems and the socialist left will do crap because..well…NO2EU…TUSC…
    If voting Green/Labour/SNP/Plaid stops UKIP then do it, if it won’t then vote for who you want and keep our eyes focussed on the tasks after this election which will be the same regardless.

  9. Were the SNP 3 (up 1), then unlikely the Greens would win a seat in Scotland. I will vote Green – Maggie Chapman.

  10. Okay will try to respond to these but might take a while to get through the queue. First thing to clarify first tho.

    Voting is a peculiarly personal thing, an aspect that gets necessarily lost in statistic abstraction. Some people get very worked up by it, especially when they see the dismal choices on offer. Others have the morals of a cat about the whole thing. I’m very much in the latter camp. My thinking above is based on voting tactically to cause as much damage as possible to UKIP, the Tories, the Lib Dems and Labour, in that order. This is not exactly a positive left agenda but in the circumstances seems the most useful thing I can do with my vote.

    Now of course if you personally can’t bring yourself to vote Labour, then don’t. I myself voted Green on a rage-whim in 2009, having intended to vote Labour but getting pissed off at the last minute by a particularly reactionary leaflet their canvasser thrust at me.

    You may point out that the Greens are well dodgy too – yeah, you have a point. In which case vote for one of the tiny left parties. Or don’t vote – whatever, it’s no biggie. Personally no2eu does not float my boat in the slightest, but that National Health Action Party looks interesting. Seems it’s co-led by Dr Richard Taylor, the Kidderminster hospital MP bloke, and they have a Keep Our NHS Public adviser on board; good position on immigration too.

  11. It seems silly to vote for a party on the basis of a mathematical projection. Would it not be better to vote for that party which has some claim to represent the working class? Certainly the Greens might be more to the left than Labour on some issues but the latter party retains the loyalty, albeit it is much eroded, of large sections of the working class and also has an organic link to sections of our class. The only principled vote then, given that there are no credible left parties to the left of Labour, is a vote for Labour.

  12. The Greens can win a seat in the SW and the BBC regional news has suggested they will, even before them reaching 12% nationally in recent days and still on a sharp upwards trend.. They are well placed in the region to pick up the collapsing LD vote. Glyn Ford might be good for all I know but I doubt he has much chance, as he is second on the Labour list, and they had none last time. Last time Labour came 5th, behind the Greens in 4th. Of course they were in government then and would be expected to do better now – but it’s very silly to write the greens off in this region.
    As for the politics as opposed to the tactics, I note the Green lead candidate, Molly Scott-Cato, is the only one to talk about cuts, privatisation or the EU/US Trade Treaty in her mini-manifesto. Meanwhile yesterday the SW Labour party put a leaflet through my door criticising UKIP for not being tough ENOUGH on benefit claimants Personally I’ll be voting Green as the only party to stand up to the right-wing scapegoating and right-wing bidding war.

  13. Jack: I’d imagine the reason why No2EU, TUSC, and all the various other far left electoral manifestations are not mentioned is that none of them has a chance in hell of winning a seat in this election, even with the benefit of the sort-of-proportional D’Hondt method.

    I think said far left groups would admit, if pressed, that their primary objective in this election was not so much to win seats but to make people aware of their existence. (In the case of the Socialist Equality Party, they were quite open about this.)

  14. A point was made in discussion recently that the core UKIP demographic (men in their later years) are also the most likely to vote in the European elections. Two questions that flow from any scenario after the elections is.1) The impact of a strong UKIP vote on political and popular conversation around immigration and migrant Labour. Some of the stuff Bat has written on “Xeno-racism” ie racism against non “Black” populations will be interesting to flesh out.

    The second and longer term point will be the relative strength of the left and right blocks ahead of the general election. In a larger turn out will the GE return a Tory government (which looks increasingly likely) or a very fragile Labour led government. What will this mean for the on going discussions about democracy and political representation – in particular projects like Left Unity.

    Would be interesting to see if anyone has comments about some other points as well. 1) What is the nature and significance of the various smaller parties on the euro list – is there a spread of credible left candidates in the local elections. 2) Is it completely unproblematic to call for a Green vote without reference to their candidates political record or not? 3) What would be the impact on the ground of the different scenarios suggested?

  15. I defer to your superior grasp of mathematics, Bat. But I don’t see the basis for your assertion that in London we should vote Green because “UKIP will take the Green seat if the Green vote doesn’t hold up”.
    The latest YouGov poll has UKIP on 18% in London and the Greens on 14%. On those figures Jean Lambert would comfortably secure re-election. The Green vote would have to fall below 7.5% (I think – my maths is crap) for her to lose it. That seems unlikely.
    The real issue in London is which party is going to get the eighth seat. On the latest YouGov figures, Labour (on 30%) is slightly better positioned than the Greens to defeat UKIP and win that seat. But it would require a boost to the Labour vote (or a decline in the UKIP vote) for that to happen.
    It’s also worth noting that if Labour does win that eighth seat it would go to Lucy Anderson, who is no.3 on the Labour list. She’s got a good trade union background and used to work in Ken Livingstone’s office. She’d be no less progressive as an MEP than a second Green candidate.
    So there’s actually a good argument for a Labour vote in London.

  16. What about smaller parties such as No2EU? You don’t mention them once in this article. Furthermore, every day the difference between the green and labour parties diminishes. I no more believe their claims of renationalisation than I do labour’s. The green party have almost no links to the working class movement, to the unions or to socialism. They may be slightly better than labour, but they are still hardly worthy of a vote.


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