We do not yet know whether the UK electorate will be privileged to take part in the EU elections. If our government or parliament manages to cobble together some sort of deal before the election date, 22nd May, then we're "out" and naturally can't take part. But clearly, the parties have to make preparations "just in case."
It is widely believed that, since the UK's Euro-elections are held under a (very crude) PR system, there is no need for the dedicated Remain parties (Liberal Democrats, Greens and Tiggers, if they decided to stand) to co-operate, because wasted votes for one party are passed on to the next.
But this is not how this primitive PR system works. As a letter to the Guardain from the the Libeal Democrat's Tony Greaves points out:
Under the closed party list system and d’Hondt counting (with no transfers) it is possible in some regions for the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and Change UK to each get a sizable vote and end up with no seats at all. Even in bigger regions the risk is that very many remain voters will find that their votes are wasted. For this very unusual and very special poll where there will be one major issue, there is an obvious and strong case for an electoral pact with joint lists of these three parties. Time is obviously short, but is anyone prepared to bite their tongue, swallow their pride and take the lead to create a united progressive remain ticket, for these elections only, that could not only do very well but actually top the poll?
In specific detail, a colleague with some psephological insight, a Simon Blakey, has calculated the likely result for Yorkshire if these three parties do not co-operate:
I’ve done some calculations to help us start thinking about how best to campaign for Remain in Yorks and Humberside. The assumptions behind the calculations are:
· Yorks and Humberside Electorate: 3.93 million (source Office of National Statistics, March 22 publication), to elect six MEPs
· Turnout: 35 percent
· Split of votes:LAB 39.4%; CON 24.0%; Brex 10.7%; LIBDEM 8.4%; Uk 7.8%; Change 4.3%; Green 4.2%; Other 1.2%
· (source: national opinion poll of 2000 electors done between 5th and 8th April — it's the only one out there so far — — and I’ve adjusted it for there being no Scots Nats in Yorks and Humber).
With the proportional system that is used in the EP elections (the ‘DeHondt system' for the nerds among you!), this would give three Labour, two Conservative and one Brexit MEP in our region.
So what are we dedicated Remainders to do, nationally (in England: things will be different in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) as well as here in Yorkshire?
There is an overwhelming case for these three parties to co-operate.
Happily England has nine Euro-constituencies, which divide neatly into three. The party apparatchiks should get together, so that in each constituency there is one and only one "Remain" list. Each party will have three in which their candidate is in first place on the list, three in which they are second and three in which they are third.
How this allocation is made is immaterial. To save time and silly arguments (I know all about those, having been involved in the allocation of seats between the Liberals and SDP in the 1980s) this could be achieved by pulling balls out of a revolving drum, as I believe they do for football cup draws, or something similar.
This "Remain" list should win at least one seat in each constituency and possibly two or even three.
As important as the number of MEPs elected on this "Remain" ticket will be the psychological effect of the total vote - much more impressive than pathetic attempts by party PR specialists to try to publicise the summation of the votes for the three different but failed parties.
The successful "Remain" candidates would not, of course, be the only British Remain MEPs: there will be some hidden (but probably difficult to identify) in the lists of the Labour and Conservative parties, and some Scottish Nationalists, some Welsh and Irish MEPs.
I understand the closing day for the parties to submit their lists is in about 10 days' time. It's not long. The parties should get moving, or we lose a massive opportunity.
Such an arrangement should be for this election only, at a time when "in or out of the EU" is the overwhelming issue facing the UK. After that, who knows?
And if the EU elections don't take place in the UK - well, we tried.