How the Euro results prove PR works

The good folk at Make Votes Count have been rapidly number-crunching, and come up with the following analysis of the UK’s European election results…

1) MOST VOTES ELECTED AN MEP

At least 3 out of every 4 votes counted and elected an MEP. Because of the proportional system used for the European elections, a large majority of voters will be represented by an MEP whom they voted for. In most regions, that is the case for at least 75% of voters. In the South East, it is almost 9 in every 10 voters. However, there were some losers; in particular Green voters missed out narrowly in several regions from electing a Green MEP.

2) VOTERS EMBRACE CHOICE

Across Great Britain, 8 different parties have won seats in the European Parliament. This shows that voters respond positively when offered choice at the ballot box. With differences emerging between results at local and European level, it is also clear that voters can make sophisticated choices about who they best want representing them and how they can most effectively make their vote count.

3) INCREASE IN WOMEN MEPs

As things stand exactly one-third of MEPs elected in Great Britain are women. This figure will likely go down very slightly, to around 32%, when the Scottish result is announced. Even so, this would still be a marked improvement on the one-in-four elected in 2004.

4) TURNOUT PATTERNS

Overall (including the Scottish result still to come in), turnout is probably going to be just under 35% – so around 4% less than last time. The biggest drops in turnout were in Wales and in those regions which had all-postal ballots in 2004. Turnout actually went up slightly in 3 regions (South East, South West and Eastern), with Thursday’s county council elections in those areas probably boosting things a bit.

5) BNP ONLY NARROWLY GAINED REPRESENTATION

In Yorkshire and the Humber, Labour needed its vote to hold up by 10,270 more votes to keep out the BNP. The Greens needed only 15,683 more votes to have come above BNP and get that final seat instead.
In the North West, it was even tighter. If UKIP had received another 1200 votes, than they would have taken another seat instead of Nick Griffin. Also, the Greens’ campaign message that were the ones who could beat the BNP in the NW almost came true: they were within 5000 votes of overtaking them and this winning that final seat.

6) ELECTORAL ADMINISTRATION ISSUES

(i) Ballot paper folding – an administrative not a systems issue
(ii) Number of parties on ballot – not markedly higher than in 2004, except in London and South West (9 additional parties on ballot in each of those regions)

7) CRITIQUE OF CLOSED LIST SYSTEMS

There are some valid criticisms of the closed list system for electing MEPs; especially that you can only vote for the party, not for individuals on the list. You can’t as a voter rank the party’s candidates in the order you’d prefer. Due to the way the parties organize their lists, sitting MEPs are at the top of the lists and have an advantage over the other candidates from their party – making it much more difficult to kick out incumbents. The lack of much coverage or media profile of MEPs means that name recognition is often low, but this may be made worse at election time by voting for a closed list – with the party promoting its own brand above the identity of any one candidate.

No electoral reformer would wish to see the closed list system in place for electing MPs. Like Cameron we recognise the need to rebuild a strong link between constituents and their MP. But, unlike him, we favour giving voters more choice over candidates. Alternative Vote Plus (the system which was drawn up with public involvement by the Jenkins Commission and is favoured by Alan Johnson) and the Single Transferable Vote do exactly that.

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25 Comments

  • David Boycott 8th Jun '09 - 3:31pm

    ‘BNP ONLY NARROWLY GAINED REPRESENTATION ‘

    Babelfish translation:

    ‘BNP made an historic breakthrough by gaining two more seats and an infinite amount more taxpayer funding for its activities than it would have done under FPTP’

  • Another Mark 8th Jun '09 - 3:45pm

    The electoral system needs to be changed. Under D’Hondt there were thousands of wasted votes in each region.

    STV would obviously be the best alternative. Howver In Denmark they also use D’Hondt, but the parties are able to enter into electoral pacts so that when it comes to the last seat, the party with most support in each pact gets all the votes in that pact. I doubt that the BNP would have won any seats under that system.

    A Danish Social Democrat said that it’s better that a vote for them results in a seat for the Social Liberals than any votes being wasted. If only UK politicians were so enlightened.

  • All that the euro election proved is no matter what form of voting you use the British electorate are profoundly EU sceptic. The Lib Dems came 4th, enough said.

    The new political landscape with PR voting at a GE would look like this.

    Labour scrapping with far left BNP for 4th/5th place. Lib Dems a distant protest vote 3rd and the main political battleground Tories v UKIP

  • What complete self serving nonsense.

    Is the author finishing here to go back to his/her job as a servant in Gordon Brown’s office?

    The BNP had two people elected. Welcome to the world of Proportional Representation. Welcome to the Liberal Democrat nightmare that would be unleashed upon us all.
    The Liberal Democrats deserve Gordon Brown after this article.

  • Trouble is, here in Scotland if you start talking about STV people will expect you to know about “Scotsport” and “Thingummyjig” (look them up on Wikipedia if you weren’t in Scotland in the 1970s!)

    Would we have BNP MEPs under AV+ or STV? I doubt it. Both systems rely on second preferences, and given that BNP tend to provoke extreme responses I doubt very much that they’d pick many up. They’s actually be more likely to pick up MEPs under AV+.

    But much as we hate them, in a democracy you have to accept the risk that they’ll get elected.

  • Democracy in action means that some parties get elected that we may not always like. BNP are an example. Blaming the electoral system is pointless. We must now campaign against the BNP and prove that our policies are better than theirs.

  • >At least 3 out of every 4 votes counted and elected an MEP.

    Makes the 73,082 of us who voted Lib Dem in Wales feel particularly unlucky, then?

    3/4 in Wales would’ve been 513,390. Actually, 498,332 people got their wish.
    So that may be the overall average, pulled up by your 9/10 in SE England, but it was fewer than three in four here.

  • Antony Hook 8th Jun '09 - 4:53pm

    We essentially do have open primaries for our Euro Candidate selections.

    No-one, including sitting MEPs, is guaranteed any position on the slate.

  • Neil Bradbury 8th Jun '09 - 5:11pm

    Basically the bigger the region, the more proportional the result. Which underlines how amazing it is to get a Lib Dem MEP elected on a list of 3, as here in the North East, but also that this system isn’t sufficiently proportional in small regions. That isn’t an argument for FPTP mind!

  • I’ve just worked out the turn-out in Wales means almost 7/10 people stayed home. Can’t all have been hacked-off Labour voters and fits all the (random) people I’ve overheard on trains/in shops etc in recent weeks saying: ‘I’m not going to vote for any of them again” cos of the expenses row.

    I quite like the Welsh Assembly system of voting for one local candidate and one party. Least I get someone I want 😉

  • Guido – it doesn’t matter how many times an MP or MEP has been deselected, what matters is the fact that it can be done. Labour used to be particularly good at it, I recall.

  • Antony Hook Antony Hook 9th Jun '09 - 10:46pm

    And those who have got to the higher positions on party Euro lists are not usually those who have “sucked up to party power brokers”.

  • Antonio Lorusso 10th Jun '09 - 2:36am

    “All that the euro election proved is no matter what form of voting you use the British electorate are profoundly EU sceptic. The Lib Dems came 4th, enough said.”

    Try this reality check of how the “profoundly EU sceptic” British electorate vote. Add up the votes cast for parties that have pledged to stay in the EU (71%). Then go and count the MP’s elected under parties who want to leave the EU (Zero). The British electorate never actually vote in a way that would bring about our departure from the EU, so their Euroscepticism isn’t all that profound.

  • David Barrett 14th Jun '09 - 12:26am

    Whatever the failings of D’Hondt STV is much worse.

    Here in Ireland STV results in intense competition within parties on grounds that are not policy, leading to politicians becomingglorified county councillors and not legislators and being judged first and foremost on the latter.

    To use an example: In 2002 the main opposition Fine Gael party (a Christian Democratic grouping) was on the ropes (it lost 23 of its 55 deputies) but it lost it’s higher quality frontbenchers and if there was a choice voters removed the legislator over the invisible constituency worker. This occured in the Dublin South constituency where they removed the Justice spokesperson while keeping the anonymous backbencher.
    In Kildare North and Kildare South (two identical constituencies to all intents and purposes) saw different outcomes. South saw the defeat of former Finance Minister and former Party leader Alan Dukes while North saw the invisible Bernard Durkan hold, even though the government ticket was stronger in North.

    National Parliaments are for legislators. Keep them that way by choosing a system other than STV

  • Malcolm Todd 14th Jun '09 - 12:50am

    David Barrett – as far as I can see your argument is that voters shouldn’t be allowed to choose between candidates because they make the wrong choice. Have you misunderstood something quite important about democracy?

  • David Barrett 14th Jun '09 - 2:15pm

    My argument is that it does not lead to a high quality of parliamentarian because candidates are forced to compete on grounds that are not policy.

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