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.
It’s all in a spreadsheet, naturally: goo.gl/ASbSwc
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.