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Tactical Voting in the North West: Just how do you stop extremists?

21/05/2014

In my last post I looked at Hope Not Hate’s campaign against UKIP and the BNP. But what would it take for their campaign to be successful?

Let’s look at how the top 6 parties performed in the North West in 2009 (there were a further six parties and an independent on the ballot paper, none of which came anywhere near a seat, so we’ll put them to one side on this occasion):

Conservative – 423,174
Labour – 336,831
UKIP – 261,740
LibDem – 235,639
BNP – 132,194
Green – 127,133

So the first of eight seats went to the Tories. Let’s put D’Hondt to work:

Labour – 336,831
UKIP – 261,740
LibDem – 235,639
Conservative – 423,174 ÷ 2 = 211,587
BNP – 132,194
Green – 127,133

So Labour won the second seat.

UKIP – 261,740
LibDem – 235,639
Conservative – 423,174 ÷ 2 = 211,587
Labour – 336,831 ÷ 2 = 168,415.5
BNP – 132,194
Green – 127,133

This handed the third seat to UKIP:

LibDem – 235,639
Conservative – 423,174 ÷ 2 = 211,587
Labour – 336,831 ÷ 2 = 168,415.5
BNP – 132,194
UKIP – 261,740 ÷ 2 = 130,870
Green – 127,133

It’s worth noting that, with five seats remaining, the calculations applied so far still show the Greens in sixth place, making it impossible for them to win a seat under the D’Hondt formula. But the LibDems did take the fourth seat.

Conservative – 423,174 ÷ 2 = 211,587
Labour – 336,831 ÷ 2 = 168,415.5
BNP – 132,194
UKIP – 261,740 ÷ 2 = 130,870
Green – 127,133
LibDem – 235,639 ÷ 2 = 117,819.5

We could now rule out any possibility of the LibDems gaining any further seats, but the fifth seat did go to the Tories.

Labour – 336,831 ÷ 2 = 168,415.5
Conservative – 423,174 ÷ 3 = 141,058
BNP – 132,194
UKIP – 261,740 ÷ 2 = 130,870
Green – 127,133
LibDem – 235,639 ÷ 2 = 117,819.5

That calculation ruled UKIP out of any further seats, leaving just Labour, the Tories and BNP in contention. The sixth seat went to Labour.

Conservative – 423,174 ÷ 3 = 141,058
BNP – 132,194
UKIP – 261,740 ÷ 2 = 130,870
Green – 127,133
LibDem – 235,639 ÷ 2 = 117,819.5
Labour – 336,831 ÷ 3 = 112,277

With Labour now out of the running, the seventh seat went to the Conservatives.

BNP – 132,194
UKIP – 261,740 ÷ 2 = 130,870
Green – 127,133
LibDem – 235,639 ÷ 2 = 117,819.5
Labour – 336,831 ÷ 3 = 112,277
Conservative – 423,174 ÷ 4 = 105,793.5

And so it was that the eighth seat went to the BNP.

Here’s the rub: Greens point out (rightly) that they were within a whisker of overtaking the BNP: just 5,062 extra votes would have seen them right. But that wasn’t the most efficient way to stop Nick Griffin: just 2,649 votes for UKIP (who would have taken the ninth seat the North West enjoyed in the 2004-2009 Parliament had it still been in place) would have put them ahead of Nick Griffin:

*UKIP – 264,389 ÷ 2 = 132,194.5
BNP – 132,194

Now, if you’re trying to vote against both parties, a Green vote would have made eminent sense. But if you just wanted to be sure of keeping Nick Griffin out of the European Parliament, it turns out that voting UKIP was the best way of doing that – not voting Green! To keep out an extremist, you had to vote for a second slightly less extremist.

Could that work this time? Looking at an average of some of the most recent polls (published this week) we can produce a back-of-the-envelope estimate of the result in the North West (this assumes a Uniform National Swing and turnout staying broadly level on 2009, so this is shaky, but it’s the best we’ve got to go on):

Labour – 530,236
UKIP – 495,548
Conservative – 317,150
LibDem – 137,101
Green – 89,199
BNP – 52,858

So the first seat would, on these figures, go to Labour.

UKIP – 495,548
Conservative – 317,150
Labour – 530,236 ÷ 2 = 265,118
LibDem – 137,101
Green – 89,199
BNP – 52,858

UKIP would take the second seat.

Conservative – 317,150
Labour – 530,236 ÷ 2 = 265,118
UKIP – 495,548 ÷ 2 = 247,774
LibDem – 137,101
Green – 89,199
BNP – 52,858

The Tories would take the third.

Labour – 530,236 ÷ 2 = 265,118
UKIP – 495,548 ÷ 2 = 247,774
Conservative – 317,150 ÷ 2 = 158,575
LibDem – 137,101
Green – 89,199
BNP – 52,858

So with five seats remaining, the BNP are still very much in a distant sixth place – unless no one is admitting to voting BNP to the pollsters, it looks like Hope Not Hate will get their way without any tactical voting and without the need for their campaign. Still, Labour take the fourth seat.

UKIP – 495,548 ÷ 2 = 247,774
Labour – 530,236 ÷ 3 = 176,745.333…
Conservative – 317,150 ÷ 2 = 158,575
LibDem – 137,101
Green – 89,199

If the polling is to be believed (and my little bit of electoral voodoo will in any way reflect reality), then the Greens have peaked too soon, and a tactical vote for them won’t do much good. And Hope Not Hate seem powerless to stop an extra seat for UKIP, who win seat number five.

Labour – 530,236 ÷ 3 = 176,745.333…
UKIP – 495,548 ÷ 3 = 165,182.666…
Conservative – 317,150 ÷ 2 = 158,575
LibDem – 137,101

So it looks like the LibDems have lost their seat. Labour take seat number six, making a gain on 2009.

UKIP – 495,548 ÷ 3 = 165,182.666…
Conservative – 317,150 ÷ 2 = 158,575
LibDem – 137,101
Labour – 530,236 ÷ 4 = 132,559

Labour’s third seat would be their last, and look where seat number seven goes: UKIP. We could go from one UKIP MEP and one BNP MEP to three UKIP MEPs – Hope Not Hate’s twin adversaries end up making a net gain.

Conservative – 317,150 ÷ 2 = 158,575
LibDem – 137,101
Labour – 530,236 ÷ 4 = 132,559
UKIP – 495,548 ÷ 4 = 123,887

The Tories would limp home for seat number eight.

And here’s the problem: it would take 13,216 votes – more than double the number of potential Greens who could have blocked Nick Griffin in 2009 – for the Conservatives to overtake UKIP. Firstly, it’s hard to envisage Hope Not Hate supporters voting Tory, and secondly, all that would do is mean the UKIP third MEP would occupy the eighth North West seat and not the seventh. Likewise, 28,082 extra LibDem voters (more than five times the number of extra Greens needed in 2009) would see them retain their MEP, but that would come at the Tories’ expense, not UKIP’s.

Five years ago, less than 3,000 extra votes for UKIP would have watered down the extremism in the North West’s delegation slightly, or just over 5,000 extra Greens would have counteracted it. In this scenario, for Hope Not Hate to have a prayer of success this time, they may need to get more than 40,000 left wing voters to hold their collective nose and vote for the Coalition parties in a fairly specific proportion. Even if they managed that, they’d have to be careful where that support was moving from: targeting Labour voters would risk them coming behind UKIP: about a fifth of their tactical vote would have to come from people who would have voted for the Greens, the Pirate Party or the Socialist Equality Party (or even No2EU), or people who would otherwise have stayed at home.

And even that would produce an outcome which five years ago, would have been seen as unsatisfactory: two UKIP MEPs in the North West. Hope Not Hate’s campaign can get rid of Nick Griffin, and perhaps activists barely need to lift a finger to do so. That would be good, but with a second UKIP MEP set to replace him, and the likelihood that the best they can do is stop a third UKIP MEP being elected as well. So if they’re to try this again for the 2019 Election, my advice would be that the campaign to roll back the UKIP advance start not in the Spring of 2019, but on 26 May 2014.

But what about how to vote tomorrow? My tactical voting recommendation is simple: given that the electoral process is simple, and entails nothing more than putting a cross in a box (it’s what they do with the votes after they are counted that is not), my advice is to keep it simple, and vote for the party you would most like to win.

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  1. Hate Not Hope? | The Will Patterson Notebook

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