UK’s European Union elections minus one day

The Conservatives head for their lowest ever national vote share in European Union elections, as Boris Johnson firms as a strong contender to be the next Prime Minister. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

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.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

38 comments on “UK’s European Union elections minus one day”

  1. For Scottish elections to European Parliament, YouGov poll shows SNP on 39%, Brexit 20%, LibDems 13%, Greens 10%, Conservative 7%, Labour 6%, UKIP 2%, ChangeUK 1%.

    Seat projections: SNP 3, Brexit Party 1 or 2, LibDems 1, Green 0 or 1.

  2. Thanks for this, Adrian.

    Minor nitpick: the final paragraph has a link to a Conversation article that is incorrect, but the whole sentence on climate change seems a bit out of place.

  3. The Liberal Democrats could outpoll Labour at the European Parliament elections, I have been hearing that plenty of Labour remainders are voting for them or the Green Party. While I believe Jeremy Corbyn’s strategy of respect the referendum result and achieving the best possible Brexit Deal is the best one for the country’s interests. However the Labour Party has a lot of remainders, including the young adults who voted for him in such large number (75% of 18-24 year olds voted for Remain).

    Also I have been hearing the Brexit Party could be joing the far-right group which Salvini’s Lega Nord and Marnie Le Pen’s National Rally (Formerly the National Front) in the European Parliament.

    I believe Britain is headed down towards a very divisive ‘People’s Vote’ which I predict Remain will win. However it is going to be extremely ugly and those who voted for Brexit could start seeing the British government as illegitimate.

  4. Jackol, the final paragraph link is correct – the relevant paragraph in that Conversation article is not near the top.

    If the Coalition won partly through attacks on the economic costs of Labor’s climate change policy, it is likely to be a disaster for global action on climate change. Whoever wins the US Democratic presidential nomination will very likely need a strong climate change policy, and Donald Trump will be able to attack this policy in the same way the Coalition is attacking Labor. So using this template, Trump could also be re-elected.

    The relevance is that most left-wing people care deeply about climate change, but the left won’t be able to implement climate change policies without an economic disaster.

  5. Interesting poll:

    Britain Elects

    European Parliament voting intention:

    BREX: 37% (+3)
    LDEM: 19% (+2)
    LAB: 13% (-2)
    GRN: 12% (+1)
    CON: 7% (-2)
    CHUK: 4% (-)
    UKIP: 3% (-)

    via @YouGov, 19 – 21 May
    Chgs. w/ 17 May

    CHUK (Change UK) is the party that was formed through split offs from Labour and the Tories over Brexit policy.

    Remember that YouGov is Labour’s worst pollster.

  6. ‘ 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. ‘

    This happens to be exactly what I said to OH this morning.

  7. Polls have ‘no, or soft brexit’ parties on 49%, up from 42.6% at the last election.

    Hard brexit parties are on 47%, down from 51.4% at the last election.

    My predictions for this election:

    The polls will be wrong. I’m not sure in what direction.

    People will misinterpret a drop in the hard brexit vote and an increase in the soft or no brexit vote as a demand to get on and deliver brexit.

  8. As the UK does not have mandatory voting (nor other sensible democratic policies), and as the Euro elections are of no real importsnce to anyone in the UK, this “election” is simply a nursery for protest votes.

    It will likely have huge vites for Brexit, and possibly on the other side, large votes for the LibDems, Greens and SNP, but …… with an expected apathetic and low turn out, what will it really mean?

  9. “Boerwar says:
    Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at 10:41 am
    ‘ 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. ‘

    This happens to be exactly what I said to OH this morning.”

    … and the “global economic disaster” will prove one K Marx cirrect. !! ??

  10. I’m not surprised by the poling we see here. Hard leavers have one main party they are falling in behind, where as the pro remain vote is split all over the place. Of course, none of this will really take anyone anywhere. May’s latest attempt to get a Brexit deal through seems dead on arrival. The backstop is a complete mess that will never be accepted by unionists, but Ireland will veto pretty much anything else, so there’s nowhere to go there. Ultimately, I see no way out of this other than a second referendum or a no deal Brexit.

  11. I am predicting that the Labour Party is going to be electorally hammered for Jeremy Corbyn supporting Brexit or more accurately sitting on the fence on the issue. Labour will likely be outpolled by the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats and maybe even the Green Party.

  12. Tristo I agree, Labour will do poorly. The Conservatives, however, are likely to do even worse with most of their vote going to the Brexit Party.

    I’ll be interested to see the turn out across the UK; I was listening to some media from Northern Ireland, where they are apparently expecting around 50 percent based on poling.

  13. Northern Ireland may be interesting. Very few polls but the last had:
    SF 27%
    DUP 20
    UUP 12
    TUV 9
    SDLP 13
    Alliance 11

    Quota is 25%
    So obviously 1 SF and very likely 1 DUP but the 3rd could fall anywhere – UUP/SDLP/Alliance

  14. Hi Adrian Beaumont,

    Thanks so much for your post.

    The last paragraph:

    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.

    I absolutely agree that until the right are discredited somehow – hopefully through a global economic disaster rather than world war III – the left will keep losing ground.

    I am in Bonn, in the beautiful Rheinland, and everyday I walk past reminders of the carnage this region suffered due to two world wars, thanks to the ascendency of the right.

  15. Hi D&M
    They participate fully in the European parliament but at times they have been disruptive by attempting to speak in Irish (see link). They are currently the only (or at least one of the few parties) with members in multiple states – 3 below the border and one above and may increase their numbers in the republic this time.
    While Irish is the first official language the level of fluency among mainstream politicians is low and Ireland waived its right to have Irish as a full EU language when it joined

  16. Hi OC,
    Thanks for that. As an Irish citizen I should pay more attention.

    And I should learn more Irish than my single phrase “pogue mahone “

  17. There is not much joy for the progressive movement in the EU. Elections. Note that this is from exit polls only. Results cannot be realeased until voting closes at 2300 German time (2200 British summer time).

    I blame Scandinavia. They must be waiting for sunset!

    Unfortunately the march of the far right continues, with only a few bright spots in places . Alternative fur Deutchland do not seem to have made many gains.

    The Greens have done well in Germany, doubling their vote to 22%. On the downside that vote seems to have largely from collapse of the SPD – the social democrats. So, it probably means that the progressives may as a whole may have gone backwards.

    However, as the Guardian says, exit polls come with the usual health warnings

  18. So, still only exit polls for the next two hours, but apparently count for the EU elections is going on as we speak, so we may quickly know how the exit polls compare with the actual vote quite quickly. Given the results in Australia, US and UK (Brexit), and how the polls got it wrong, I will be really interested

    I poked my head in to the local school, Die Marienschule, Altstadt, Bonn, around the corner, where EU voting is happening. The process seems identical to that we undergo in Australia. But, no one handing out, no corflutes near the polling place, and no democracy sausage. The latter seems quite a pity, given the infinite variety of wurst available here, and some excellent vegetarian options.

  19. The big story in Europe is the collapse in the vote for the traditional parties, although this collapse is far worse on the progressive side, and the rise and rise of the far right parties.

    The Greens have done extraordinarily well, often doubling their vote, a good think from my progressive view of politics, but we need to see how this compares with the gains by the far right.

    Unfortunately in France, Marine Le Pen’s NR party have scored the most votes, at around 25%, beating out Macron’s “En Marche”.

    But once again, the “Green Wave” in grace is the success story of the night. I am watching France 24, but am hearing this from other sources – the left is completely splintered – so people feel that they can vote for the Greens knowing that they have progressive policies, and will take action on the environment. However, the same commentator suggests that the 25% who voted for Le Pen are actually not Euro-skeptic, they voted for Le Pen for other reasons. They need to be heard.

    Also, more than 50% turnout for these elections. More than any election since 1994.

    My guess is that we are looking at a realignment in politics, in line with what has happened in Australia and the US.

    A quick look suggests to me that there is a split on voting lines on education lines, with blue collar workers, or gillets jaune perhaps, voting for the far right, with educated voters voting for the Greens?

    Remember, I am not a psephologist, and we still have zero actual votes counted.

  20. Also, interesting listening to the commentary in Europe for these EU elections.

    The proportional voting means that the commentators have to discuss not just parties, but also where they sit on the left-right political spectrum, so that they can work out who is likely to be in a majority alliance.

    This leads to a far more robust discussion of the policies of each party than you ever get in Australia.\

    Also, just listening to the celebration at Marine Le Pen’s National Renewal Party headquarters. The champagne is flowing, and they are thanking les gilets jaunts.

  21. Oh god, I am now listening to Gunnar Beck for AfD (Alternitiv fur Deutchland), celebrating their increased votes, saying that Mutti Merkel has stuffed the economy by allowing refugees into Germany.

    He speaks English without any German accent, and he sounds just like Prince Charles, or John Cleese taking the piss out of a conservative attire party member of the House of Lords.

  22. On the good side, according to local commentators, the Far Right parties have not done as well as expected.

    The social democratic parties have been particularly badly hurt, and a French Social Democratic Party member is saying that her party needs to try to work with the Greens and the far left, to make a genuine progressive block.

    The interviewer asks her how even this level of strong left cooperation can actually be effective against the resurgence of the anti-refugee, anti – EU far right.

  23. Wow! Germany had close to 60% participation in the EU election.

    Advisor to Helmut Kohl (who brought about the unification of Germany), says the rise of the Greens is not a bad thing, because they have been strongly pro-EU. They will work with the pro-EU parties.

    He also says that AfD on 10% is actually a good result – because AfD and Marine le Pen have NOT made the gains they were expected to.

  24. Also, said advisor predicting an alliance between centre right (Mutti Merkel’s CDU) with the Greens in the German EU block.

    If Mutti Merkel is centre right, I can live with the centre right.

  25. Unfortunately, Hungary had swung behind Viktor Orban’s Fidesz, a highly nativist, far right economic party.

    Not a big surprise to me. Working closely with colleagues in this country who support Fidesz, and visiting in about 4 weeks. Luckily, with friends and colleagues, I am good at finding common ground, and we will work well together on science.

  26. So, actual votes coming in now. In the UK, Labours has lost votes to BREXIT (Nigel Farange’s party), but in Spain, the socialists are hanging on.

  27. The European Parliament election results for Britain are what I have predicted. Both the Conservatives and Labour are being punished by the voters, for both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn’s being seen as sitting on the fence on the issue of Brexit.

    This is a warning to Australia for the 2022 election, neither party can afford to be seen as ‘sitting on the fence’ on the issue of climate change.

  28. The UK result will be a massive boost for soft brexit or remain.

    With England and Wales counted.

    The Tories lost 25.6% but the Ukip+brexit vote only gained 7.7%

    The remainers gained 22.2%, while labour lost 10.8.

    So people are doing two things. They are polarising towards the two ends of the spectrum, and shifting towards remain.

    The remainers had three times the positive swing the hard brexiters did, and the soft brexiters (labour) had 2/3rds the negative swing of the moderate brexiters (Tories)

  29. @Voice Endeavour

    I agree Britain has become very polarized over Brexit, also the electorate is becoming more and more radicalized by the day. It is increasingly becoming a choice between a Hard or even No Deal Brexit or Remaining in the European Union. People are increasingly becoming opposed to any comprise, hence why both the Conservative and Labour vote went down. While the Liberal Democrat, Green and SNP vote went up considerably.

    I believe this has lessons for Australia, this same process is going to happen over Climate Change in the next two to three years.

    BTW I am a Remainder but respect the referendum result. So I would have been satisfied with a Soft Brexit. However with a prospect of a very Hard or No Deal Brexit, I have shifted towards the People’s Vote side.

  30. I believe both the Labour and Conservative Parties campaigned on delivering the result of the referendum, i.e. to deliver Brexit. So one could say the brexiteers won 58% of the vote in England/Wales.

    In Scotland the committed ”remainers” got 62% (SNP, LibDems, Greens) which is the same percentage that voted remain in the referendum.

  31. Another good result for the SNP which the BBc is predicting 3MEPs and another nightmare for the main unionist parties. 🙂

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