Modelling the European elections

Plenty of people have been trying to model the European elections in an attempt to get a better handle on how to game the d’Hondt voting system. Several Remainers are part of tactical voting groups, where recommendations are put out, often hijacked by partisans of all sides. But unfortunately none of the approaches seem to be particularly statistically thorough.

I’ve created a model which is based off past election results and opinion polls, compared to how well the parties actually did in each region of England in those elections. More specifically, it works out how much each party underperformed or overperformed by in each region, compared to the national results, and also the opinion polls. It then takes an average of these under/overperformance quotients, weighted in different ways (eg the 2014 European u/o quotient is weighted more heavily than the 2016 local elections u/o quotient because they are the same type of election, while the 2019 local elections u/o quotient is weighted more heavily than the 2015 local elections u/o quotient because they were more recent).

The result of this is that I have a regional swing model which takes past evidence of how close opinion polls and actual results were in each region to calculate how each party will do in each region based off national opinion polls now (the only ones with proper weighting). This is not an exact science at all. It is based off a lot of educated guesswork and assumptions as to how opinion is changing over time. But it is based on real life results that have happened over the past few years.

As such, it enables me to see how close each party is to winning a seat, and thus make tactical recommendations, if I plug in a recent European election poll. I’m doing this based on the latest YouGov poll (they most accurately predicted the 2014 election, and the 2017 general election). I’ll briefly give some analysis of each region and the tactical recommendations below.

As a warning, you will notice that in a lot of places, the Lib Dems are the tactical recommendation. I know some groups on Facebook have been suspicious of this, but this is just what my model is telling me, based on compiling a lot of statistics and a lot of evidence. Unfortunately for the Green Party (who, as can be seen from previous posts on this page, I have a lot of time and respect for), it is just indisputable fact that opinion polls are quite consistently showing the Lib Dems very far ahead now nationally, and so this is reflected in the regional totals. There are, however, a couple of places where the Lib Dems (often on their third or fourth round) and Greens are so close that making a tactical recommendation would be misleading. In those, I lay out the numbers, and the decision is left up to the reader.

And finally, in these recommendations, I prioritise the number of Remain MEPs *overall*. For full disclosure, I am a Lib Dem member, but these recommendations seek to maximise the number of Remain MEPs to try to get the stop Brexit message out there. In some places, this means defending a final Remain seat where the Brexit Party is close to taking it. In others where Remain seats aren’t under threat, it means going on the offensive and recommending shifts in votes to win an additional Remain MEP. Currently, my model projects pro-EU parties winning 16 MEPs. If my advice is followed, we could increase that to 22 MEPs, almost double the number of Labour and the Tories combined.

Anyway, onto the recommendations and projections. (Numbers may not add up to 100% due to rounding, weighting, and minor parties)


East Midlands

Projections – BXP 42.3 // Lab 15.2 // LD 12.6 // Con 10.0 // Grn 7.6 // CUK 3.9

Predicted order of election: 1. BXP – 2. BXP – 3. Lab – 4. BXP – 5. Lib Dem

Analysis: The final seat here goes to the Lib Dems, where their undivided total of 12.6% beats out the Brexit Party who on their fourth round have 10.6%. This means that the Lib Dems beat the Brexit Party to the final seat. This also means that the Lib Dems are just 2% away from losing that seat to the Brexit Party, while the Greens are a larger 3.1% away from winning a seat. With that in mind, Remainers should vote Lib Dem.


East of England

Projections – BXP 40.3 // LD 16.6 // Con 11.0 // Lab 10.6 // Grn 10.6 // CUK 5.2

Predicted order of election:  1. BXP – 2. BXP – 3. Lib Dem – 4. BXP – 5. Con – 6. Grn – 7. Lab

Analysis: The final seat here goes to Labour, a pro-Brexit party. The nearest Remain party to their 10.6% share is the Lib Dems, who in the second round have a share of 8.3%. Meanwhile, Change UK have a share of 5.2% which will be entirely wasted based on these statistics. A movement of 4% to the Lib Dems would give the Remain parties an additional seat. Meanwhile, the Greens would require an extra 10% in the first round to gain a second seat. With that in mind, Remainers should vote Lib Dem.



Projections – Lab 22.1 // BXP 21.7 // LD 16.0 // Grn 12.6 // Con 8.5 // CUK 5.0

Predicted order of election: 1. Lab – 2. BXP – 3. LD – 4. Grn – 5. Lab – 6. BXP – 7. Con – 8. LD

Analysis: The final seat here goes to the Lib Dems, who pick it up on their second round with 8%. The closest competitor here is the pro-Brexit Labour Party, who on round three get 7.4%. It looks like London might just edge three Remain seats, and the priority should be in protecting that final one. The way to do so is to prevent Labour winning it, and so Remainers should vote Lib Dem.


North East

Projections – BXP 39.2 // Lab 22.4 // LD 13.9 // Grn 7.0 // Con 6.6 // CUK 4.3

Predicted order of election: 1. BXP – 2. Lab – 3. BXP

Analysis: The North East is horribly disproportionate due to only having three seats. The Brexit Party wins the final seat on its second round with 19.6%, with the Lib Dems being the closest competitors by a long way on 13.9%. Because there is only really one opportunity for a Remain MEP here, the focus should be on combining behind one Remain party because of how disproportionate the constituency is. As a result, my strong recommendation is that all Remainers vote Lib Dem to push them over that threshold.


North West

Projections – BXP 35.6 // Lab 20.9 // LD 15.2 // Grn 8.8 // Con 7.6 // CUK 4.4

Predicted order of election: 1. BXP – 2. Lab – 3. BXP – 4. Lib Dem – 5. BXP – 6. Lab – 7. BXP – 8. Grn

Analysis: The Greens win the final seat here, but are not massively at risk – their closest competitor is the Lib Dems in their second round on 7.6%. Additional votes for the Greens could push them above the Brexit Party, while additional votes for the Lib Dems could just eke them over the threshold to gain a second seat, taking the total Remain tally up to 3 MEPs. Tactical recommendations here are tough here as a result.


South East

Projections – BXP 37.9 // LD 20.1 // Con 11.8 // Grn 11.5 // Lab 8.9 // CUK 6.0

Predicted order of election: 1. BXP – 2. Lib Dem – 3. BXP – 4. BXP – 5. Con – 6. Grn – 7. Lib Dem – 8. BXP – 9. Lab – 10. BXP

Analysis: The final seat here is won by the Brexit Party in their fifth round, on 7.58%. The Lib Dems are the closest competitors on 6.69% in their third round. In terms of raw votes, this means the Lib Dems only require an extra 2.7% to beat the Brexit Party and win a third seat in the South East. Unfortunately, the Greens would need an extra 3.6%, which is more than the Lib Dems. The difference in percentages may be small, but in raw votes in this huge region, that could be quite a few. As such, the tactical recommendation is to vote Liberal Democrat to ensure a fourth Remain MEP (3 Lib Dem, 1 Grn).


South West

Projections – BXP 40.3 // LD 26.8 // Grn 15.6 // Con 11.0 // Lab 8.4 // CUK 2.0

Predicted order of election: 1. BXP – 2. Lib Dem – 3. BXP – 4. Green – 5. BXP – 6. Lib Dem

Analysis: The final seat here is won by the Lib Dems, who are at 13.41% in their second round. The closest competitor is the Conservative Party, who lag behind on 11% in their first round. There doesn’t appear to be a realistic prospect of gaining an additional Remain MEP here (three seems to be the practical limit based on current polling), so the only tactical thing to do would be to defend the final Lib Dem seat by voting Lib Dem. Like the North West, however, tactical decisions are difficult here.


Yorkshire and the Humber

Projections – BXP 40.6 // Lab 18.1 // LD 16.5 // Grn 7.2 // Con 6.6 // CUK 4.6

Predicted order of election: 1. BXP – 2. BXP – 3. Lab – 4. Lib Dem – 5. BXP – 6. BXP

Analysis: The final seat here is won by the Brexit Party, who are on 10.15% in their final round. Their closest pro-Remain competitor is the Lib Dems on 8.27%. Green and Change UK votes are currently wasted, meanwhile a small increase of the raw Lib Dem share by just 4% – around a third of the Green/CUK share at present – would secure the Lib Dems a second seat, and a second Remain voice in the region. The tactical advice therefore has to be to vote Lib Dem.


West Midlands

Projections – BXP 40.8 // LD 16.4 // Lab 16.2 // Con 9.4 // Grn 6.7 // CUK 4.0

Predicted order of election: 1. BXP – 2. BXP – 3. Lib Dem – 4. Lab – 5. BXP – 6. BXP – 7. Con

Analysis: The final seat here is won by the Conservative Party on 9.4%. Their closest competitor is the Lib Dems on 8.2%. The Lib Dems in raw votes would require an extra 2.54% to win the seat, while the Greens would need an extra 2.89%. It is exceptionally close here. Tentatively, the tactical advice is to vote Lib Dem in an effort to deprive the Tories of the final seat, but that isn’t for certain, and polling may change this in future.


It’s time for Remainers to get real about the European elections.

I thought about starting this post with a milquetoast introduction to the fact that elections were coming, but it’s time to get straight to the point. Remainers need to get real about the European elections. And, as a full disclaimer, I am a paid up member of the Liberal Democrats, so you might think that “I would say this”, but this post is aimed in particular at the Green Party, and secondarily at “tactical voting” websites which are using terrible, outdated evidence.

In plain English, even though the elections use proportional representation, the counting method is such that it is still very possible to split the vote. And naturally, Remain voters are anxious not to do that. So anxious, in fact, that they tried to lobby the parties with anti-Brexit positions to form a joint list or stand down for each other. And it didn’t work – not that the Lib Dems didn’t try.

So we’re now left with a conundrum. Who to support? This is where I think we need to get real.

I have a lot of respect for the Green Party. I have advocated alliances with them in Oxford when I was involved in the Lib Dems there. I worked with them to help get Layla Moran elected in 2017. I think they share a vast amount of policy with us, and broadly represent the same worldview. It is welcome that the Greens are supplanting Labour and beating Tories in limited places across the country.

But we need to be cold and ruthless and logical in swinging our support behind one Remain party at these elections, and I think the Greens are being disingenuous by claiming that it should be them. And before I explain why, I want to say: we have no time to beat around the bush anymore. So I am going to be blunt, and put the statistics exactly as they are. I mean no disrespect to the Greens, to whom I would probably give my second preference in any preferential election in England and Wales, in so doing.

Their main claim is that they have 3 MEPs compared to only 1 Lib Dem MEP, and this means that they are the strongest pro-EU party now. But this is ludicrous. It is absolute nonsense. We have to be honest with ourselves. This state of affairs arose from the 2014 European elections. To hammer home the point, this was five years agoduring the Coalition, when the Greens had more members than the Lib Dems, and we were at our lowest point in our history, ever, full stop. Two general elections later, and with the Lib Dems now having over 100,000 members compared to the Greens’ mere 40,000, and with the Lib Dems having significantly improved their electoral fortunes – for instance gaining over 700 seats just this week, absolutely dwarfing the Greens’ efforts both in terms of gains and raw councillor numbers – the situation is just not the same anymore. We cannot rely on evidence from before Brexit happened – before the seismic shock which changed politics – as justification for how we should act now, against Brexit.

What makes this contention even more outdated is precisely where they are saying they are stronger. In the South West – a Lib Dem heartland, where the party just hit it out of the park in local elections (see chart below). In the South East, where the Lib Dems just picked up a cluster of brand new councils – Mole Valley, Winchester, the Vale of White Horse. In London, where post-Brexit opinion polls clearly show the Lib Dems are doing best and outperforming the Greens.

Again, I want to underscore with as much clarity as I possibly can that I have enormous respect for the Greens. If we used a sensible system of proportional representation like STV, they would get my second preference. If it were an election at any time other than this, I would not be making this post. But this is not the time to be messing around. We need to make a statement.

People can vote for who they like. It’s their right as electors. And I’m sure this post will get a reaction from Green members who are understandably passionate about their own candidates. But I just want to present the evidence once again. Evidence from the post-Brexit era.

  • The Lib Dems beat the Greens in every region in the 2015 and 2017 general elections.
  • The Lib Dems beat the Greens in terms of vote share and councillors elected in 2017, 2018 and 2019
  • The Lib Dems beat the Greens in the London local elections in 2018, including gaining majority control of an extra two whole councils.
  • The Lib Dems beat the Greens in the Scottish local elections in 2017, which are the only post-Brexit election conducted by proportional representation in mainland Britain so far. They got almost double the number of first preferences, and over treble the number of councillors.
  • The Lib Dems are ahead of the Greens in by-election victories
  • The Lib Dems have proven they are back stronger than pre-Coalition by gaining +704 council seats this week, concentrated in the South East and South West.
  • The average of polls conducted for the 2019 European elections has the Lib Dems on around 9%, with the Greens on around 7%. These were before the local elections, which showed a major Lib Dem set of gains.

Every single one of these things are facts. The only countervailing evidence is that most of these elections were done by First Past the Post. But there is not a single time that the Greens have beaten the Lib Dems post-Brexit, and nor is there a single region where the Greens are outperforming the Lib Dems. Remainers: we have to wake up. We have to accept reality. I know there are Greens who will vote Green no matter what, and all power to them. But at this election – this one time, where so much is at stake and so much can change if we send the right signal – we have to get behind the party which all the evidence shows is the strongest pro-European party out there. Please let’s get real, and force the main two parties to understand that we want them to stop Brexit.