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.


Generation Gap

I was looking through YouGov’s full polling data over the past few weeks yesterday, and was struck by a particular feature of the statistics for the Lib Dems. As mentioned before, we’ve been stuck on 7-8% for pretty much eight years now, but underlying this is an interesting demographic split which should be a little bit worrying for the party.

A recent report showed that the Liberal Democrats have the youngest party membership on average, and has the highest percentage of 18-24 year olds as members, coming in at around 6% (I suspect the number is in fact higher than the QMUL/YouGov polling data would suggest, with internal estimates of Young Liberals membership being between 8-10,000). But looking at the YouGov Westminster voting intention figures, the 18-24 category is in fact our worst age group in terms of vote share.

With the exception of what seems like one anomaly, we’re stuck on around 5-6% with 18-24 year olds, and even including the anomalous 10% figure in this poll taken in mid-February, we still consistently poll behind the Conservatives for the youth vote, which should be worrying considering their reputation at the moment.

The age group which gives us the most support, consistently, is the 50-64 group. And while this is sustainable in the short term, this poses an enormous problem for our party. We are the youngest party by all measures, and yet the young simply aren’t voting for us – and eventually, this will reach a point where our vote share will drop off.

The solution to this has to be strategic as much as policy-based. The tuition fees debacle must have harmed young people’s trust in us. But populist and wrong-headed policies like tuition fee abolition mustn’t be allowed to creep back into our scheme of thinking, nor should we think narrowly when trying to build trust and appeal back up, and only talk about higher education policy.

As a young person, my big concerns at the moment are housing and the cost of living, as well as general progressive concerns like the environment and equality. The Liberal Democrats have good policy on this already, but we need to turn it into a coherent strategy, augment it with bold proposals that don’t fall foul of Technocrat Syndrome (such as standing up to NIMBYs and pledging to reduce the green belt), and electorally target young people.

I don’t know the exact form this would take, but a starting point might be to send target letters to 18-24 year olds across the country, putting forward the case that we are the party that wants to start afresh for young people, and give them the same opportunities their parents had. We want to make the cost of living affordable, ensure every young person has the opportunity to get on the housing ladder, establish an education dividend to redress the generational gap, and so on.

Young Liberals can be part of this as well. We must get better at campaigning outside of freshers’ week. Student societies should start putting out student Focus leaflets all year round, and YL as an organisation should provide templates and funding to be able to do this. Non-student societies should be tasked by local parties with focussing entirely on 18-24 or 18-30 year olds in particular wards, so there are always sections of each local party ruthlessly focussing on expanding our support amongst the next generation.

Our goal as a party must be to improve support amongst young people from a dismal 5%. We’re the third party, and Labour have a monopoly on youth voting at the moment. But even doubling that and consistently getting to 10% amongst this age bracket will help us nationally, and help solidify the emerging coherent demographic that the Lib Dems nationally need to be targetting.

The Toxicity Problem


This is the first post I’ve written in a long while. Blogging something I’ve always viewed as a bit pompous and annoying. But I’ve grown so frustrated with the leadership of my party that I will explode with annoyance if I don’t write it down somewhere, and hopefully, this will help marshal my thoughts into something more coherent and useful. In this first post, I want to scream into the void about our supposed toxicity. I have no interest in protest voters who abandoned us after we became a party of government – here, I want to focus on the pro-European, anti-Brexit liberals who still think we’re an unconscionable political choice despite the wrecks of their own parties, in particular, Labour.


The Liberal Democrats have been stuck on 7-8% pretty much consistently since the general election, and this figure – notwithstanding a moderate increase in support after the Richmond Park by-election – has remained pretty much the same since shortly after the party’s decision to enter into Coalition government in 2010. And yet, politics has changed almost beyond comprehension since then, the Conservatives having abandoned the liberal conservatism of Cameron, Labour having abandoned the social democracy of New Labour, and, of course, Brexit having happened. To anyone even moderately involved in politics, the claim that there is a “vast space” or a “gaping chasm” or a “vacuum” in the political centre is hardly new. And yet, no matter how many times it is pointed out, and no matter how many times ‘moderate’ voters claim that they are politically homeless, the Lib Dems remain firmly confined to that 7-8%.


“But tuition fees!” say some. “But austerity!” say others. These accusations normally come from the left, and from reluctant members of Labour. The hypocrisy here reeks. The Lib Dems have always been proud of most of what we achieved in government, but have always been open about the fact that we made mistakes. We openly, publicly apologised for tuition fees, for example (despite the fact that a majority of the Parliamentary party didn’t even support increasing them), in the spirit of adult politics. We used our private members’ bills to try to put right some of the problems with the bedroom tax. The leader who took us into the Coalition is no longer even an MP, and a majority of our MPs and our members weren’t around under the Coalition. And yet we still get these accusations levied at us, as if we are the exact same party; as if the decision of a very different group of people eight years ago somehow toxifies the whole concept of a liberal party. The way some people talk about the “traitors” who make up the Lib Dems, you’d think that somehow, joining the party turns you automatically into a liar who lusts after power so much that they would abandon every principle they’ve ever had. Clearly, the idea is nonsense.


But the accusations so often reek of hypocrisy. Despite the massive changes in the Lib Dems, we’re still the same, and still toxic – but Labour, who had their own problems with the Iraq War, are different now, and no longer toxic. Labour members point to our leader and deputy leader as having been Coalition ministers, while forgetting that their deputy leader and a significant chunk of their Shadow Cabinet voted in favour of the Iraq War. Labour members claim that their membership has changed so radically that it is functionally a different party, while ignoring that the same churn has happened within the Lib Dems, with a majority of our members being post-2015 joiners. Let’s be adult about politics. If you think the Lib Dems are necessarily still tainted by Coalition, then by the exact same token, Labour are still tainted by the Iraq War. If you think recent changes in Labour have absolved them of toxicity, then the same arguments also apply to the Lib Dems. But perhaps more pertinently, it is just in bad faith to make arguments delving back a decade into history. It’s about ideas now – if you disagree with our ideas, challenge them. But feebly whinging about a u-turn half the party didn’t vote for, which we apologised for, and the person responsible for no longer sits in Parliament, while the flames of Brexit engulf everything and your own party is rife with overt racism in the present day is just in bad faith and ridiculous.


But perhaps there is something more that underlies why our vote share is flatlining, and why these accusations still work. Aside from our anti-Brexit policy, I think even the most seasoned of Lib Dems would agree that we have got ourselves very lost in recent years. We don’t really know what we stand for. We don’t really know what the liberalism is that we are supposed to support, other than vague intuitions. We have been unable to articulate radical policy that matters to people (not helped by the party’s structure). My hunch is that if we were to throw caution to the wind, boldly state exactly what it is that we are for and what our vision for Britain is, and accept no policy platform which includes mere tinkering, settling for nothing less than structural, root-and-branch liberal reform, we’d be considerably more attractive for wavering pro-Europeans, and would start, at last, to make progress.


In short, I think the Lib Dems are held to an unfairly high standard, and that the criticisms of us as toxic for things we did in the Coalition are deeply hypocritical. But the way to get round this is not only to robustly defend ourselves while making fair concessions where we got things wrong – it’s to push forwards, finally get ourselves in order, and articulate what liberalism is and what it means to the people of this country, rather than blandly dithering, and throwing policies at the wall to see what sticks. This, as you may guess, will be the theme of my posts in future.