A strawman on EP election tactical voting for Remainers

Apr 12, 2019 · 9 min read


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A lot of people make the assumption that the UK EP elections are under a straight PR system. Unfortunately, the reality is that the D’Hondt system heavily favours larger parties and thus works against groups that split their votes amongst several parties. As such, tactical voting is depressingly necessary if Remainers are to make an impact.

Choosing Goals

  • Influence the media narrative about the strength of the Remain cause
  • Show backing for a 2nd Referendum
  • Reduce the UKIP/Brexit Party representation in Europe as far as possible

Each of these goals potentially leads in a different direction, especially when we consider that at the time of writing this, we have no idea what Labour’s manifesto for the EP elections will be.

Beat Farage

It would of course be very pleasant to see the hardest anti-EU parties lose badly. For myself however, I don’t think this negative goal is the correct one, as we know that both the majority of the media and key figures in the Labour leadership will claim any votes for Labour as backing for “Labour’s Brexit.”

Boosting a 2nd Ref

Remainers Represent

Thus, if Remainers want to use this election to make a statement about the UK being in the EU (and what better forum for that statement than elections to the European Parliament?) we need to grapple with the fact that the parties we can vote for are all starting from a lower base and thus the D’Hondt system will discriminate against them. From an angle of “percentage of the vote” this doesn’t matter — but you can rely on UK media commentators to follow any statement about this with “sure that was high, but they didn’t win many seats” unless we get our tactical game together.

Tactical Voting

Key concepts about the UK EP elections:

  1. In Northern Ireland they use STV, but all the other regions use D’Hondt and going by previous results D’Hondt in these circumstances generally means a party needs to get a minimum of at least around 9 or 10% of the vote to get a seat (but for example in the North East last time, the threshold was 18%).
  2. Because we hope for a decline (probably minor) in the UKIP/BrexitParty/Tory turnout and an increase (we hope a major one) in the turnout of Remainers all of the following ideas are open to discussion.
  3. There appears to be no existing official co-operation between pro-Remain parties and at the time of writing it does not appear there is time or will to create one, so it is down to us, as voters, to make some hard choices.
  4. As of writing the LibDems and the Greens are neck and neck in polling and this suggests that the LDs have not recovered from their losses in 2014, but equally have not fallen away further.

Controversial Assumptions

  1. Likewise there are other pro-EU parties, e.g. Renew, but running from a zero base, it’s very hard to see how under D’Hondt they can make an impact, so brutal as it is, they simply do not get a look in here.
  2. Very few of the Remain candidates we know of so far have enough personal standing to swing a race. So in most cases party considerations rule. I will update if new candidates with real personal standing come into play.
  3. The LDs are not going away, but they haven’t show much spark either. As such, given the general level-pegging with the Greens, my aim is to try to roughly identify which region each has a better chance in and suggest voters coalesce around 1 party. I have only an outsider’s view on most regions, so if you know better, write up your own logic — the purpose of this exercise is to be a start, not an end of the discussion. At the time of writing there is almost no useful regional polling, so much of this is thinking based on the 2014 result, which I agree is problematic, but we have to start somewhere.
  4. It’s virtually impossible to forecast by just how much Remain and Leave turnouts will change, so I’m going to focus on “minimum viable wins” — the tactics that can make an impact on seats with only a relatively low bump in the Remain vote. We could do much better than that and I hope we do (get all your friends registered!) but this is a starting point.
  5. I assume many Labour voters, no matter their European convictions will simply vote Labour no matter what the party’s stance is. Relying on them to return some good pro-EU MEPs is a risk, as some of the best are lower on the list. But as discussed earlier, Labour votes will be portrayed as pro-Brexit, so if you’re thinking tactically, you have to think of other parties.

Region by Region Tactical Voting

Northern Ireland



North East England

North West England

Yorkshire and the Humber

East Midlands

West Midlands

East of England

South East England

South West England

London Region

Remain voters in the London region should vote their preference.

Reminder: this piece exists to start the conversation off. If you have a better logic, or better information for a particular region, write it up and make your case!

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