Tag Archives: european elections

Brexit and the European elections

With the European Elections looming they could be regarded as a test of public opinion, almost a second referendum.

However given that what UKIP and Boris Johnson et al promised in the run up to the 2016 referendum has been shown to be unattainable it is almost inconceivable that

Nigel Farage’s BREXIT Party should be riding so high in the ratings. One can only assume that this a matter of dictatorial principle “you will do as we tell you”, an anti- establishment stance from people who feel totally undervalued, powerless and ignored – determined to win at any cost and regardless of outcome. Nigel Farage now says it is about democracy.

It will therefore need the pro-European Parties, and hopefully Labour, to work together to get the facts across. This is not about democracy: it is about the future of our country for generations to come.

BREXIT could lead to the break-up of the UK, the loss of Gibraltar, and the outbreak of hostilities in Ireland, which could very quickly escalate out of control, and will certainly leave the UK worse off economically. It is doubtful that anyone voted to be worse off and yet this is what the most optimistic predictions, even those of the Government, suggest. Just recall how hard Britain fought to gain access to the“common market” and that 44% of our exports go to Europe (with only 18% ofEurope’s exports coming to Britain) and a further 20% of Britain’s exports go via trade agreements with Europe.

Therefore the NET contribution Britain makes to the EU pales into insignificance compared to the advantages of this free trade agreement. And those that argue that the UK would not have to pay the £39b, so called divorce settlement, were it to leave without a deal, should bear in mind that this is to honour our contractual obligations and what country would enter into an agreement with a country which failed to honour such commitments – not to mention the possibility of sanctions imposed by the EU on top of tariffs

The Irish Border, together with Gibraltar, was always going to present insurmountable problems. It was perhaps “freedom of movement”, more so than the “Good Friday Agreement”, which led to the end of hostilities in Ireland, with people crossing the invisible border daily. However one cannot “control one’s borders” without a border and the only way to retain an open border in Ireland, and avoid hostilities, is to remain in a Customs Union and Single Market (Free Trade Area).

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Our European Election campaign priorities

It seems inevitable that the elections to the European Parliament will be read as a vote on Brexit. That risks the election campaign being a rehash of the referendum,  alienating an electorate frustrated by #BrexitShambles, and putting the emphasis on whether we should be there rather than on what our we are electing people to do.

Instead of this, campaigning on the core of the programme of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe gives us a chance to shift the debate, adding something new and inviting supporters of Brexit to see things differently.

ALDE’s programme begins with a summary the British electorate would do well to hear:

In more than 60 years of European integration, the European Union has served us well in achieving peace, stability and prosperity. The EU has promoted and extended to half a billion people the four freedoms: the free movement of people, services, capital and goods across borders. We want the Union to play a key leadership role in tackling today’s and tomorrow’s global challenges.

As such, the ALDE Party believes in a Europe based on the fundamental Liberal principles of liberty, democracy, the rule of law, human rights, tolerance and solidarity. We believe in a fair, free and open society which harnesses the abilities of each and every one of its citizens to participate fully in society, presenting them with the opportunities to fulfil their potential, free from poverty, ignorance, and discrimination.

The full ALDE manifesto is something to be proud of. The core statements in the political programme strike a powerful chord: a prosperous Europe, sustainable development and peace in the world, renew the EU and building a transparent, democratic and accountable Europe. Nuancing the descriptions a little for a British audience:

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European Elections aren’t about the Lib Dems, they are about Remain

Tim Farron rightly gets lots of criticism for his lack of clarity on one issue. Unfortunately, this tends to obscure the huge credit that he should receive for his boldness – back on 24th June 2016 – in being the first to argue that there would need to be a final vote for the British people on whatever deal was eventually strike. I’m biased, but that looks visionary: not only was he clearly right but it gave the Lib Dems a raison d’etre, at a time when they might otherwise have seemed wholly irrelevant.

The Lib Dems now find themselves, increasingly, on what appears to be right side of history. Whether or not a people’s vote is achieved and ultimately Britain votes to remain, the party holds a position that will be a key determinate of how people will vote for decades to come.

And yet, the Lib Dems have frequently been right in the past without reaping political rewards. Even at this moment of greatest opportunity, going into EU elections, the party runs the risk of annihilation.

Yesterday’s Today programme carried two set-piece interviews about the forthcoming EU elections: the first with Nigel Farage about the launch of his Brexit party and the second with Anna Soubry MP about Change UK’s campaign. News is called that for a reason: what is new always trumps what is old.  And the Lib Dems are old.

The emerging media narrative for the EU election campaign is a fight between, on the one hand, the two new parties as the champions respectively of leave and remain, on the other, more broadly between the old parties and the new. Despite three long years of championing the remain cause the Lib Dems simply have no place in this narrative – they are irrelevant.

And yet despite what must now be viewed as an existential threat going into these elections, it feels uncomfortably like ‘business as usual’ for the party: 

There is some griping about the unwillingness of TIG to form a pro-EU alliance, but why would they? They see our brand as fatally tarnished. Whether they are right or wrong, they aren’t ready to do deals.

Posted in Op-eds | 47 Comments

The Battle for Young Britain

The photograph (credit: Leslye Stanbury) made me catch my breath when I saw it on Facebook.

These were obviously young people from Hastings & Rye – where I live; and where I was our parliamentary candidate for the last three General Elections.

It is easy to go along with the narrative in the left-leaning press outlets that I read: that our young people are instinctively progressive – anti-racist, environmentalist, socially liberal. And yet, clearly – as the photo proves – this isn’t so all across the country.

On some level it makes sense that there would be some Hastings young folk at the pro-Brexit demonstration. The constituency voted pretty clearly to Leave (55% to 45%) back in 2016.

And yet I found it genuinely sad and disappointing that we have obviously failed these young people in particular – failed to persuade them that membership of the European Union has serious benefits for them, and for their future.

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15 March 2019 – yesterday’s press releases

Lib Dems call on retailers to scrap the gender price gap

To mark World Consumers Rights Day, Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine has written to major cosmetic manufacturers and retailers across the UK as part of her campaign to scrap the gender price gap.

Commenting on her campaign, Ms Jardine said:

We are a quarter of the way through 2019 and still men and women pay different prices for the same basic products. This is entirely unacceptable.

For World Consumer Rights Day I am writing to the most prominent cosmetic manufacturers and retailers across the UK to ask them to change their outdated

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Let us Celebrate European Democracy!

The European elections on May 26 are primarily seen as a problem best avoided for Britain on its way out, and an untimely complication for a people’s vote to remain. Even Remainers are surprisingly shy about them. Conventional wisdom says that the UK must first sort its membership question before a possible participation in these elections should be considered. I am arguing for the exact opposite.

A passionately fought election campaign for the UK seats in the European Parliament would be the meaningful People’s Vote. It would force the British public to have an overdue debate at a moment when public knowledge, interest, and passions are at a historic peak. It could divert the hitherto unproductive debate from in/out of the caricature of an organization to the question: in which direction and with which allies do we want our MEPs to push the EU?

For the first time, EU-minded candidates can make their case for remain and reform in a manner that will be noticed; pro-EU voters will, for the first time, see the purpose of the institutions, and the importance of sending constructive contributors as their MEPs. These candidates will surely compete against a full UKIP-field, which will struggle much more than in the past to promote its destructive agenda. Their old claims have been substantially debunked, and their old advantage from asymmetric mobilization should be gone. Besides, with the membership question still open at that point, sending Europhobes to the European Parliament makes little sense: if the UK remains, rebuilding relationships in Brussels and other capitals must be the UK’s top priority; otherwise, British MEPs serve no further purpose.

The Conservatives would be very hard pressed to field candidates and campaign. How shall they position themselves? Fielding UKIP-clones makes little sense and would be unlikely to succeed. But how would they campaign “positively, just in case”?

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Fight like a liberal

I’ve had an individual membership of ALDE, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, for a couple of years now. As our membership of the EU was under threat, it seemed important to be a part of that wider movement of European Liberals.

I renewed my subs recently and paid a little bit more for a “Fight like a Liberal” wristband. It’s the ALDE slogan for the European elections. Yes, that’s right, that monolithic superstate decried by Brexiteers was underpinned by a Parliament. It’s not perfect. It needs more powers, but democracies evolve. And the Brexiteers are howling with outrage as our own Parliament threatens to take back the control it was promised in the referendum. When we have a minority government doing catastrophic things, you rather expect that the more sensible MPs will step up and sort things out.

Anyway, my wristband arrived yesterday and it actually made me feel a bit sad. Because we should be gearing up to fight a European election. We shouldn’t be distracted by all this Brexit nonsense. We should be, as the slogan goes, fighting like liberals against the forces of hard right populism across the continent.

It made me think about all the other European campaigns I’ve fought or been aware of in my life.

1979 was the first proper Euro election. I was 11 and in Inverness. Winnie Ewing was always going to win that one and she did.

By 1984, I was heavily involved in the SDP and got into terrible trouble for propping up a Russell Johnston leaflet in my bedroom window. I remember delivering his leaflets in Wick as my parents were following me with Tory ones. It was a forlorn hope, though, because Winnie won again.

1989 was the disaster year when we were down to an asterisk. I was also living in Ayrshire where Lib Dems weren’t exactly in plentiful supply. I was the only one in our village.

By 1994, I was down in the East Midlands. North Notts and Chesterfield formed a constituency and we had a candidate, Susie Pearce, from Aylesbury. That campaign was hilarious fun. You have to wonder how Paul Holmes ever got selected to be MP for Chesterfield when he worked us so hard. Although I remember being told off as his campaign manager because he was just short of about 90% of the vote in that selection. Never one to underestimate anyone’s capacity for work, not only did he have us weighing out a million election addresses from a young council candidate’s flat, he decided we could stuff 40,000 target letters for a by-election in Bradford too.

We pulled a few all-nighters but we had some great laughs and got a good result locally. And nationally, Graham Watson and Robin Teverson were elected in the South West.

At that time we kept winning no-hope by-elections from Labour and the Euros were another staging post for the Council elections in 1995 (which didn’t go so well for us in the end) and Tony Rogers’ 1997 election bid which got us into position to win the seat in 2001.

By 1999, we had proportional representation and a real hope of winning our first Parliamentarian in the East Midlands since 1931. We’d survived the battles of zipping – making sure that the PR lists were gender balanced. And, do you know what? It worked. 

Posted in Op-eds | 8 Comments

Is the SNP’s latest European Election Broadcast even legal?

imageLast week, the SNP’s first broadcast for the European Elections was broadcast. It bore a remarkable similarity to the broadcasts that they have been putting out since the end of last year which were all aimed at persuading people to vote Yes in the independence referendum. It interspersed colourful footage of children talking about how wonderful and independent Scotland with black and white starkness portraying a vision of hellish Westminster rule.

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Andrew Rawnsley: “The real reasons why Nick threw down the gauntlet to Nigel”

Andrew Rawnsley has made some interesting comments in today’s Observer on Nick Clegg’s debate challenge to Nigel Farage.

He makes the obligatory point that the party’s poor position in the polls and concern over the consequences of a bad result for Clegg’s leadership  but makes the point that it only takes a relatively small shift to protect the position of Liberal Democrat MEPs.

Senior Lib Dems privately confide that their goal is quite modest: to lift their vote share by three to four points above their current poll ratings. When you are bumping along at low levels of support, just a

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Meet Malcolm Bruce: Part 2: International Development and those Euro elections

malcolm-bruce-2After his surprise election as Deputy Leader last week, I caught up with Malcolm Bruce, someone who is well known to us in Scotland but not so much to the rest of the party. The first part of the interview, where talks about Liberal Democrat achievements in government, what he can bring to the Deputy Leader role and on Scottish independence, was published last week.

Malcolm has been Chair of the Commons Select Committee on International Development since 2005. After years of economic portfolios, including Trade and Industry, the Treasury itself …

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@ALDEParty Congress: writing a manifesto for Europe

So, a bit like the Eurovision Song Contest, but possibly with better tunes, liberals from as far afield as Armenia and Catalonia, Finland and Cyprus are gathered to debate the draft manifesto.

The draft is founded on four key themes;

  • creating jobs and opportunities – free trade agreements, stimulating SMEs and e-commerce
  • setting new priorities – redirecting spending towards increasing jobs and improving lives, cutting administrative budgets and the Common Agricultural Policy, and ensuring healthy public finances
  • stronger in the world and safer at home – a common asylum and refugee policy, strengthening EU agencies and cooperation to fight organised crime, pooling and sharing

Posted in Europe / International and News | Also tagged | 11 Comments

The European Election – Fighting an Integrated Campaign

European Union flagIn a speech earlier this month Nick Clegg detailed just how crucial the European Union is for prospects of a stronger economy and a fairer society here in Britain (you can read the full text of his speech here).

The Liberal Democrats’ success in the European Election is thus hugely important in making sure the EU lives up to its potential in contributing to that combination of increased economic strength and greater social fairness that we are uniquely in a position to deliver. The election is also significant from a political perspective, with the party’s eventual performance being used as a yardstick for our relative success or decline by pundits and opponents alike.

Posted in Europe / International | 1 Comment

The European Election – Campaigning on the Issues

We are now just 30 weeks away from the next round of local elections. Crucially, these have been arranged to coincide with the EU-wide election for the European Parliament. Obviously who gets what seats in Brussels and Strasbourg seems far more removed from our ordinary lives than the running of the local Council, but it is still hugely important.

As a candidate in the European Election, I am very keen that we do not end up wasting time talking about Brussels obscurities. Instead, those of us selected to stand for the European Parliament are trying to talk …

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Nick Clegg’s Letter from the Leader: “Only the Liberal Democrats are, unambiguously, the party of ‘In’.”

This week the Lib Dems got #WhyIamIn trending on Twitter to launch the party’s campaign to show the positive benefits of British membership of the European Union. Nick Clegg takes up the cause in his weekly letter, making the point you’ll hear a lot between now and next May’s Euro elections: “Only the Liberal Democrats are, unambiguously, the party of ‘In’.” As I pointed out this week, it’s not just a cause the vast majority of the party passionately believes in — it’s also smart electoral politics. Here’s Nick’s letter in full…

libdem letter from nick clegg

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Opinion: My taxpayer funded Euro jaunt was well worth it

I seldom hear much enthusiasm about European politics. It seems particularly difficult to get people excited about the EU and during the Euro list selection campaign, I found that even politically active people were largely uninterested in European issues. It is hardly surprising, then, that the UK turnout in 2009 was less than 35%.

One attempt to tackle this problem comes from the EU in the form of subsidies offered to MEPs who bring visitors from their constituencies to see the European Parliament. I was lucky enough

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Euro 2014 – a cause to fight for, not to hide from

So, we’ve selected our candidates for Europe in England and Scotland, and a pretty good bunch they are too – people who are committed to the concept of a Europe of twenty-seven (soon to be twenty-eight) nations pooling some sovereignty for a greater good. So far, so good. But what are they going to do for the next eighteen months?

Past experience says, “not much to do with Europe”. Yes, they’ll be campaigning to a lesser or greater extent, but what will they be

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged | 50 Comments

Have you (and your members) had their Euro ballot papers yet?

Perhaps it’s the increasing freedom for people to use social media during Liberal Democrat selection contests. Perhaps it’s the increasing proportion of party activists who take part in online discussions. Or perhaps it’s hiccups with the Royal Mail, party data or others involved. Whatever the cause, as with the party’s recent federal committee elections there seems to be more chatter about people not receiving ballot papers for the current Euro selections than in previous contests. 

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Also tagged | 9 Comments

Selection of European Parliamentary candidates for 2014

The English and Scottish Liberal Democrats are now inviting applications for selection for the Liberal Democrat Party lists for the English Regions and for Scotland for the next European Parliamentary elections (which take place in 2014). The formal advert has been published in Liberal Democrat News. The closing date for applications is 6 p.m. on Friday 27 July.

Potential applicants should contact the Returning Officer for the region(s) in which they are interested for an application pack. Applicants can apply for as many Regions as they wish, but must obtain a separate application pack and submit a separate application to …

Posted in Europe / International, News, Party policy and internal matters and Selection news | 2 Comments

European candidate selections: is that the time already?

News has reached your reporter that, in a radical break with tradition, the English Candidates Committee is likely to meet later this month to address key questions relating to the selection of European Parliamentary candidates for elections due in May 2014, where Liberal Democrats will be defending seats held in each of the nine English Regions (two in South East England) and in Scotland.

Radical, because the Committee usually only meets four times a year, with the first meeting at the Spring Federal Conference, and the newly elected Chairs …

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Labour ups election spending by a third as Conservatives make big cuts

Yup, you read that headline right. For those are the surprising figures from the 2009 European Election expense returns which have just been published.

In 2009 the Conservatives spent £2,482,536 on election expenses for the European elections, just ahead of Labour on £2,302,244 with the Liberal Democrats on £1,180,883.

However, while the Labour figure was up 35% on the 2004 European elections, the Conservatives had cut their spending by 21%. The Liberal Democrat spending was 1% lower.

UKIP spent £1,270,855, a cut of 46%.

In the elections the Conservatives, UKIP and Liberal Democrats each gained a seat while Labour lost five. (Seat change …

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Electoral fact of the day: turnout and age

“Nearly three-quarters (74%) of people aged 65 or over said that they had voted in the European Parliamentary elections, compared with only 13% of those aged 18 to 24.”

(From the Electoral Commission’s report in to the June 2009 elections, p.26.)

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Electoral fact of the day: turnout and postal voting

In June’s European elections, turnout amongst postal voters was 64% in Great Britain. Turnout amongst non-postal voters was 30% – a full 34 percentage points lower. There’s a lesson in there about campaigning…

The figures for the different regions were:

South East 68% (+34%)
South West 68% (+33%)
East Midlands 67% (+34%)
Eastern 67% (+33%)
West Midlands 66% (+35%)
Scotland 63% (+39%)
Yorkshire & The Humber 63% (+37%)
North West 63% (+37%)
Wales 62% (+36%)
London 61% (+31%)
North East 59% (+38%)

The Isles of Scilly were the only area where turnout amongst postal voters was lower than that amongst non-postal voters (by two percentage points).

Source: Calculated from Electoral Commission data

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Weekend voting: will this be the next trend in trying to raise turnout at elections?

Cross-posted from The Wardman Wire:

Over the last few years a wide range of attempts have been made to raise turnout at elections in the UK. The broad conclusion is very simple: all-postal ballots raise turnout significantly (albeit at the cost of various drawbacks) and nothing else that has been tried does so. E-voting, early voting, voting by text, and many others: all been tried, all flopped.

However, there are signs that moving to voting at the weekend may be coming back on the electoral administration agenda.

It is easy to see why weekend voting may appeal. Fewer people work at the weekend which could mean people are more likely to have time to go and vote, plus in turn candidates are more likely to be able to get volunteers out campaigning on polling day reminding people to vote.

The main drawbacks are also fairly straight-forward.

Posted in Election law and News | Also tagged , and | 13 Comments

Did you see the reports about the public getting keener to vote in European elections?

No, I didn’t either. But the odd thing is, there’s plenty of evidence that the public were keener to vote in European electins than previously. The evidence is certainly patchy and incomplete, but the uniformity of the turnout gloom and doom stories seems to me to say rather more about the media’s fixed image (‘turnout? must be down’) than about the actual evidence.

The key is to compare like-for-like data. For example, in several parts of England the last European election were run using an all-postal ballot, in which all possible voters were sent a ballot paper that they could then …

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And the winners are…

Back on 2nd June, LDV launched our election prediction competition, inviting readers to put their reputations on the line and tell us what they thought would happen in the 4th June English local and European elections. Here are the questions with the actual results in bold:

1. Predict the Liberal Democrat share of the vote in the European elections. 14%
2. Predict the turnout in the European elections. 34.5%
3. Predict the Liberal Democrat lead over Labour in the local elections (if you think the results will be LD 25%, Lab 22%, your answer is +3%. If you think it will be the other way around, your answer is -3%). +5%
4. Predict how many local authorities the Liberal Democrats will have majority control of on 5th June. 1 (Bristol)
5. Predict the net loss/gain of Lib Dem councillors. -2 (BBC figures)

I’ve now had chance to mark the competition, summing the differences between readers’ answers and the results, resulting in the following league table:

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My favourite piece of post-election spinning

Can you spot the person and party in this local newspaper report who:

(a) Slipped back to fourth place for the first time
(b) Saw their vote fall
(c) But say they are “pleased” with the result? and hope to “ride the momentum” into next year’s local elections

(Here’s a clue: his name is Richard Merrin; his political party is the Conservatives.)

And for a final bit of fun, here’s what Richard Merrin said during the election campaign itself: “Do the Lib Dems really think the Euro election in Hornsey is a fight between them and Lab – the electorate don’t …

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Official: the best (and worst) Lib Dem Euro results

As m’LDV clleague Alex has just mentioned, the Guardian has kindly uploaded a spreadsheet listing all the council results from the European elections – allowing us to sort the results whichever way we wish. So listed below are the best – and worst – Lib Dem European election results.

There are 41 areas which we’re defining as the best-performing – ie, the Lib Dem vote exceeded 20%. As you might expect, a number of familiar names crop up, pleasingly a mixture of held and target seats. (NB: council results do not necessarily match Westminster constituencies, so careful in extrapolating too precisely!)

Sadly, there are more results that we’re defining as worst-performing, 118 in total where the Lib Dem result failed to reach 10%. For comparison, the Tories were <10% in 10 areas, but there were an astonishing 157 areas where Labour was <10%. Ukip was <10% in 62 areas, and the Greens <10% in 307 areas.

Anyway, enough of such data-mining – here are the lists in full:

Posted in News | 17 Comments

Guardian publishes full list of Euro election results

Kudos to the Guardian which has obtained council-level euro results and munged them together into one giant spreadsheet with click-sort columns, over on its datablog.

The hook the Guardian are using is that it allows you see just how well the BNP did in your area, but anyone with a political hat will want to play with the data and slice it in numerous different ways.

Congratulations, then, to South Lakeland, for the highest Lib Dem Euro score anywhere in the country; commiserations to Barking and Dagenham where we polled under 5%… and ooh – is that a weak correlation …

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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

Posted in Europe / International and News | Also tagged and | 25 Comments

Euro elections ’09: the LDV verdict

Hmm, so what to make of all that, then? Here’s the headline results (comparison with 2004 results in brackets):

Conservatives: 27.7 % (+1.0%), 25 MEPs (+1)
UK Independence Party: 16.5% (+0.3%), 13 MEPs (+1)
Labour: 15.7% (-6.9%), 13 MEPs (-5)
Liberal Democrats: 13.7% (-1.2%), 11 MEPs (+1)
Greens: 8.6% (+2.4%), 2 MEPs (0)
British National Party 6.2% (+1.3%), 2 MEPs (+2)
SNP: 2.1% (+0.7%), 2 MEPs (n/c)
Plaid Cymru: 0.8% (-0.1%), 1 MEP (n/c)
Others: 8.2%

In a sense, the Euro results show the reverse for the Lib Dems of what happened in the English local elections held on the same day: while in the locals, the …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | 35 Comments
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Tue 10th Dec 2019