Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at The University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.
Elections to the European Parliament in the various European Union countries will be held from May 23 to 26, on each country’s national election day. The UK uses Thursday for its elections, so its EU elections will be on May 23. There are a total of 751 seats in the EU Parliament, with 73 allotted to the UK. No results will be released until all countries have finished voting on May 26 (early morning May 27 Australian Eastern Standard Time).
For the EU elections, the UK is divided into 12 regions, with each region electing between three and ten members. The 12 regions are nine English regions, plus Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Except in Northern Ireland, members are elected by proportional representation at the regional level. But due to the limited number of seats per region, larger parties will earn a disproportionate share of the seats. Northern Ireland uses Australian-style Senate voting for its three seats.
Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party has surged to a clear lead in polling for the EU elections. Polling has the Brexit party in the low 30’s, Labour in the low 20’s, the Liberal Democrats between 12 and 17%, the Conservatives between 9 and 12% and the Greens between 6 and 11%. While most polls have Labour in the 20’s, two YouGov polls gave Labour just 15%. YouGov has been the worst poll for Labour for the last year. The Lib Dems and Greens gained after their success at the May 2 local elections.
If the Conservatives do as badly as polls suggest, it will be their worst ever vote share at a national election, and follow on from their loss of over 1,300 councillors at the local elections. Such an outcome will increase pressure on Theresa May to resign.
May will attempt to pass Brexit legislation through the Commons in the week beginning June 3, but this legislation’s prospects look bleak given Labour and hard Leaver opposition. Although May cannot face a no-confidence vote until December, this rule could be changed if she refuses to resign after losing yet another crucial vote. If May resigns or is forced out, Conservative MPs will winnow the candidates down to two, and those two will go to the hard Brexit-supporting membership. Boris Johnson would be a strong contender to be the next PM.
If Johnson becomes PM, he is likely to attempt to Leave the EU, deal or no deal. The Australian election was a massive setback for progress on global climate change – see this Conversation article for why. In my opinion, the only way left-wing parties will start consistently winning elections across the Western world is if there is a global economic disaster that is blamed on right-wing policies. A no-deal Brexit could be such an economic disaster.