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Politics as usual? Great!
27 Apr, 2019

The European Parliament elections are not a referendum

London4Europe Committee member Michael Romberg does not regret that the Remain parties failed to form a single list for the European Parliament elections.


Widespread regret

Many people – here for example Ian Dunt - have expressed regret that Change UK, the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats have not joined together as a single Remain platform to contest the European Parliament elections.

The point is that while the D’Hondt system is more proportional than first-past-the-post it still favours larger parties. Especially in the UK’s smaller constituencies, the Remain parties are likely to lose ground to the Brexit Party, Conservative and Labour compared to the result if the Remain parties had campaigned on a shared platform and achieved the same number of votes.


Democracy means different views

Once you get beyond Remain, a broad commitment to a social market economy, personal freedom, rule of law etc., the various Remain parties have different platforms.

The Greens prioritise the environment much more than any other party does. The Liberal Democrats have a collection of policies based on the theme of a “fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”.

Change UK has not yet really worked out much of its policy stance – and it will be interesting to see how it resolves the differences between those of its members who had come from the Conservatives and those who came from Labour - given that they had all been happy with their parties before the recent moves towards Brexit and polarization and Labour’s failure to tackle anti-semitism.


Take the European Parliament elections seriously

But we Remain campaigners, we of all people, should be taking the European Elections seriously. They are elections to determine the future of the EU, including, through the Spitzenkandidat system, the President of the European Commission.

We should be asking ourselves which party has the best policies for Europe? Which of the major groupings of European parties in the Parliament should we support?

  • Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe – supported by the UK’s Liberal Democrat Party
  • European Conservatives and Reformists – Conservative Party, UUP
  • European People’s Party (EPP) – supported by a small party, UKEPP, which offered a London list in the 2014 European Parliament elections. Since then, two former Conservative MEPs who now support Change UK are part of the EPP. Change UK will not decide which Group to support until after the elections
  • European United Left/ Nordic Green Left – Sinn Fein
  • Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy – UKIP* and various independents, including Nigel Farage*
  • Europe of Nations and Freedom – UKIP* and an independent
  • Greens / European Free Alliance – Green Party
  • Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats – Labour Party

* support in 2014-19 Parliament. Not yet clear whom UKIP and the Brexit Party would support in 2019 - Parliament.

In the 2014-19 Parliament, the DUP MEP, a UKIP MEP and an independent MEP were not attached to any party group.


Sure, the voting system imposes constraints

As with every voting system electors have to consider tactics. If their preferred choice has no hope, should they vote for another party that is close to their ideas and that has a better chance of winning? The point is less pressing than in Westminster elections, but still exists.


But the elections are not about UK politics

The election is not about the UK’s Brexit decision but many parties will frame it that way. The European Parliament will decide whether to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement, but not whether Brexit should go ahead nor whether there should be a referendum. That is for Westminster.

MEP candidates from a range of parties, including Conservative and Labour, have constructive positive views about the future of the EU. Some of them might come closer to an individual voter’s idea than one of the other Remain parties. Though the need to vote for a party means that electors have to consider the slate as a whole.


The elections are not a referendum

Of course Nigel Farage says that they are. But that is because he is not interested in the future of the EU – it appears he hopes it does not have one.

Anyway, if he wishes to treat the elections as a referendum then he should not look at seats won, because that reflects the voting system. He should look only at the national votes – that is how a referendum is counted.






The London4Europe blogs page is edited by Nick Hopkinson, Vice-Chair. Articles on this page reflect the views of the author not necessarily of London4Europe.