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What if?
28 May, 2019

Tactical voting advice - with the benefit of hindsight

It's always easier to be right after the event. London4Europe Committee member Michael Romberg plays with the numbers for the European Parliament elections now that the results are in. Companion articles look at how useful the opinion polls had been and a comparison of 2014 and 2019.

 

Contents of this article

  • Table 1 sets out the actual polling results
  • Table 1a goes into more detail on the "other" parties and individuals
  • Table 1b has turnout information
  • Table 1c  adds the actual vote shares together into various subtotals
  • Table 2: how fair was D'Hondt?
  • Table 2a: what if the electoral system had been perfectly proportional?
  • Table 2b: how many votes were needed for each seat?
  • Table 3: what if - the three main Remain parties had formed a single platform?
  • Table 4: what if - the votes for UKIP and "other" parties had gone to bigger parties?
  • Table 5: what if? tactical voting advice - with the benefit of hindsight
  • Table 5a: actuals and options summary table: votes and seats for the Remain Parties
  • Table 5b: what if tactical voters had boosted the party closest to winning the 8th seat?
  • Table 5c: what if the Remain votes had been more evenly spread?
  • Table 5d: what if the supporters of the weakest party had voted for stronger parties?
  • Table 5e: what if all Remain voters had swung behind the leading party - see Table 3 for results
  • Table 6: what if it had been a referendum? Let's pretend, using opinion poll information

 

Conclusions

Whether D'Hondt is fair compared with a purely proportional system depends on size of the constituency, the number of credible parties, and the pattern of votes in the particular election. For 8-seat London, the system can be reasonably fair compared with a purely proportional system. Table 2 shows that in this election as usual the system benefited the largest party - this time the Liberal Democrats. By the chance of the numbers it also slightly advantaged the Brexit Party. Change, Green and Labour received the right number of seats. The Conservatives were probably disadvantaged.

The starting point is that London is a Remain city. Table 6 shows that if the election had been a referendum, the Remain parties would have won 6 seats on the back of 71% of the vote.  Table 1c shows that the Remain parties actually won four seats on 48% of the vote. I understand that many people choose the party to vote for for reasons other than Brexit/ Remain; also, some people did not know what the Labour Party's policy is or voted Labour in the hope that its policy will change

Counting Labour as a pro-people's vote party as the People's Vote Campaign does means that pro People's Vote parties won 6 seats and 70% of the vote (Table 1c). Let's hope that is where Labour's policy actually ends up.

About 5% of votes went on other parties. Table 4 shows that if these votes had all gone on bigger parties then - on my assumptions - it would not have made a difference to the number of seats in this election. But The Brexit Party and the Greens would have received one of their seats in an earlier allocation round than they did. 

Before the vote, a lot of effort was put into giving tactical voting advice. We do not know of course how far the actual results reflect voters principled choices and how far their decisions were affected by tactical voting considerations. The analysis in Table 5 shows that with the same number of Remain votes it would have been possible to boost the number of seats from 4 to 5 by following one of four strategies: boosting the weakest of the parties (Change UK) at the expense mainly of the Greens; eliminating the weakest party and giving all its votes and some of the Liberal Democrat votes to the Greens; everyone backing the leading party (Liberal Democrats); and spreading some of the Liberal Democrat vote between the Greens and Change UK. 

One of those strategies was promoted by RemainVoter, another by RemainUnited.

It is clear from the calculations that these results are very tight: by the time you are looking at adjusted poll numbers for later seats differences in vote shares are measured in the hundreds. That reinforces my own view about tactical voting under D'Hondt. It's too complicated because there are too many options; the quality of data in regional sub-sets of opinion polls is not good enough to allow the necessary fine tuning; and it is hard to predict how far people will take your advice. My own advice was therefore not to vote tactically but to vote strategically for the Remain party that came closest to your ideals

The only effective tactic, I suggest, would be to form a common platform for a campaign. That of course brings problems of its own.

 

Tables

 

TABLE 1: The actual result for the six largest parties. Votes have been turned into seats using the D’Hondt method (read more about that here).  Seats won in each round are shown in bold. Poll numbers are then adjusted for subsequent rounds of seat allocation.

  

 

Brexit

Con

Labour

Change

Green

LD

Votes

400,257 177,964 536,810 117,635 278,957 608,725

% of votes

17.9 7.9 24.0 5.2 12.4 27.2

1

400,257 177,964 536,810 117,635 278,957 608,725

2

400,257 177,964 536,810 117,635 278,957 304,362

3

400,257 177,964 268,405 117,635 278,957 304,363

4

200,129 177,964 268,405 117,635 278,957 304,363

5

200,129 177,964 268,405 117,635 278,957 202,908

6

200,129 177,964 268,405 117,635 139,478 202,908

7

200,129 177,964 178,937 117,635 139,478 202,908

8

200,129 177,964 178,937 117,635 139,478 152,181

Total

2 0 2 0 1 3

 

Notes

Brexit = Farage’s Brexit Party

Change UK, formerly The Independent Group of MPs

LD = Liberal Democrats

 

 

TABLE 1a: Other parties and individual candidates, set out by Brexit stance

 

Name Votes 

(absolute numbers) %
UKIP 46,497 2.1
 
Animal Welfare Party 25,232 1.1
UK EU Party 18,806 0.8
Women's Equality Party 23,766 1.1
7 Climate and Ecological Emergency Independents 4,939 0.2
Independent Mike Shad 707 0
Independent Ian Sowden 254 0
Independent Andrew Venzon 731 0
TOTAL PRO-REMAIN 74,435 3.3
 
Independent Alan Kirkby - not allocated 401 0
 
TOTAL 121,333 5.4

 

 

TABLE 1b: Electorate, turnout

 

Electorate 5,478,083
Ballot papers issued 2,259,078
Ballot papers rejected 17,397
Valid votes cast 2,241,681
Turnout 41.3%

 

Source: Regional Returning Officer for London

 

TABLE 1c:  Some totals of the actual votes cast and seats won.  

 

  Votes (% of total) Seats
Pro-Brexit 52 4
Pro-Remain 48 4
 
Pro-No-Deal Brexit 20 2
Pro Brexit with a deal 32 2
Pro-Remain 48 4
 
Anti Peoples' Vote 28 2
Pro People's Vote 70 6

 

Notes:

  • Pro No-Deal Brexit: The Brexit Party & UKIP
  • Pro Brexit with a deal: Conservatives, Labour
  • Pro-Remain: Change UK, Green, Liberal Democrat, Other Remain
  • Pro-People's Vote according to People's Vote campaign: Change UK, Green, Labour , Liberal Democrat, Women's Equality Party
  • Anti Peoples's Vote: The Brexit Party, Conservatives, UKIP

 

 

TABLE 2: How fair was D'Hondt? 

TABLE 2a: What if the electoral system had been perfectly proportional?

 

 

Brexit

Con

Labour

Change

Green

LD

Votes

400,257 177,964 536,810 117,635 278,957 608,725

Share of 8 seats

1.4 0.6 1.9 0.4 1.0 2.2

Rounded

1 1 2 0 1 2

Actual seats

2 0 2 0 1 3

Difference

+1 -1 0 0 0 +1

 

Note: the rounded number of seats comes to 7, not the 8 that are available. If one increased each party's unrounded seat number by the same proportion until one of them reached a number which when rounded would give them an extra seat, the Brexit Party would be the first to gain an additional seat.

 

TABLE 2b: How many votes did each party need for each seat?

 

 

Brexit

Con

Labour

Change

Green

LD

Votes

400,257 177,964 536,810 117,635 278,957 608,725

Actual seats

2 0 2 0 1 3

Votes per seat

200,128 - 268,405 - 278,957 202,908

 

 

TABLE 3: Actual result but on the basis that the three Remain parties had campaigned as a single Remain Platform and received the same number of votes in total as they received as individual parties. That is an arithmetic assumption. There are arguments that a Platform would have done better than individual parties (people like to back a winner) and that it would have done worse (people wish to back their party).

 

 

Brexit

Conservative

Labour

Remain

Votes

400,257 177,964 536,810 1,005,317

% of votes

17.9 7.9 24.0 44.8

1

400,257 177,964 536,810 1,005,317

2

400,257 177,964 536,810 502,658

3

400,257 177,964 268,405 502,658

4

400,257 177,964 268,405 335,106

5

200,129 177,964 268,405 335,106

6

200,129 177,964 268,405 251,329

7

200,129 177,964 178,934 251,329

8

200,129 177,964 178,934 201,063

Total

1 0 2 5

 

 

TABLE 4: Actual result but with the votes cast for UKIP and "other" parties and individuals re-allocated. Note, the re-allocation has not been based on polling or other evidence of what their voters' second preference would be but on my assessment of the party's stance. 

 

 

Brexit

Conservative

Labour

Change

Green

Liberal Democrat

Votes

446,754 177,964 536,810 136,695 332,894

610,163

% of votes

19.9 7.9 24.0 6.1 14.8 27.2

1

446,754 177,964 536,810 136,695 332,894

610,163

2

446,754 177,964 536,810 136,695 332,894 305,081

3

446,754 177,964 268,405 136,695 332,894 305,081

4

223,377 177,964 268,405 136,695 332,894 305,081

5

223,377 177,964 268,405 136,695 166,447 305,081

6

223,377 177,964 268,405 136,695 166,447 203,388

7

223,377 177,964 178,937 136,695 166,447 203,388

8

148,918 177,964 178,937 136,695 166,447 203,388

Total

2 0 2 0 1 3

 

Notes:

I reallocated the votes as following fairly arbitrarily and without consulting the organisations. Apologies for massive oversimplification of positions:

 

 

TABLE 5: Tactical voting with the benefit of hindsight

TABLA 5a: Total vote of Remain Parties - Actual and options

 

Option Change Green Liberal Democrat Total
Actual - table 1 - votes 117,635 278,957 608,725 1,005,317
Actual - table 1 - seats 0 1 3 4
Boost the party closest to winning the 8th seat - Table 5b - votes 200,130 200,457 604,730 1,005,317
Boost the party closest to winning the 8th seat - Table 5b - seats 1 1 3 5
Spread the joy - Table 5c - votes 200,130 404,927 400,260 1,005,317
spread the joy - Table 5c - seats 1 2 2 5
Eliminate the weakest - Table 5d - votes 0 400,587 604,730 1,005,317
Eliminate the weakest - Table 5d - seats 0 2 3 5
Everyone backs the leader - Table 3 - votes 0 0 1,005,317 1,005,317
Everyone backs the leader - Table 3 - seats  0 0 5 5

 

Table 5b: Boost the party closest to beating the Brexit Party for the 8th seat

To obtain the 8th seat, a Remain party has to beat The Brexit Party by 1 vote, so a score of 200,130. In the last row of Table 1, Change UK is furthest behind the other Remain parties. Yet it is actually closest to beating The Brexit Party. That is because it has not yet won a seat. So the gap between the votes it has and the votes it needs represents the total number of votes needed (82,495). By contrast, because they have already won seats, the gaps for the Greens and the Liberal Democrats need to be increased by 2 and 4 respectively to show the total number of extra votes needed (121,303 and 191,795). Both the Greens and the Liberal Democrats have spare votes. So some of them could be reallocated to Change UK.   

 

 

Brexit

Con

Labour

Change

Green

LD

Votes

400,257 177,964 536,810 200,130 200,457 604,730

% of votes

17.9 7.9 24.0 8.9 8.9 27.0

1

400,257 177,964 536,810 200,130 200,457 604,730

2

400,257 177,964 536,810 200,130 200,457 302,365

3

400,257 177,964 268,405 200,130 200,457 302,365

4

200,129 177,964 268,405 200,130 200,457 302,365

5

200,129 177,964 268,405 200,130 200,457 201,577

6

200,129 177,964 178,937 200,130 200,457 201,577

7

200,129 177,964 178,937 200,130 200,457 151,182

8

200,129 177,964 178,937 200,130 100,228 151,182

Total

1 0 2 1 1 3

 

Table 5c: Spread the joy

What if instead of the Liberal Democrats winning 3 seats they had won 2.  If the Liberals Democrats had won their second seat with the 200,130 needed to beat the Brexit party they could have given away the 82,495 votes that Change UK needed to beat the Brexit Party, and the 125,970 votes that the Greens needed to win a second seat.

 

 

Brexit

Con

Labour

Change

Green

LD

Votes

400,257 177,964 536,810 200,130 404,927 400,260

% of votes

17.9 7.9 24.0 8.9 18.1 17.9

1

400,257 177,964 536,810 200,130 404,927 400,260

2

400,257 177,964 268,405 200,130 404,927 400,260

3

400,257 177,964 268,405 200,130 202,464 400,260

4

400,257 177,964 268,405 200,130 202,464 200,130

5

200,129 177,964 268,405 200,130 202,464 200,130

6

200,129 177,964 178,937 200,130 202,464 200,130

7

200,129 177,964 178,937 200,130 134,976 200,130

8

200,129 177,964 178,937 200,130 134,976 133,420

Total

1 0 2 1 2 2

 

 

TABLE 5d: eliminate the weakest 

The calculations in the lead-in to Table 5b show that it would not have been enough for Change UK voters to back the more successful Remain parties. Either everyone would have needed to come together (Table 3) or all Change-voters and a few thousand Liberal Democrats would have needed to switch to Green to give the Greens a second seat without losing the Liberal Democrat 3 seats.

 

 

Brexit

Con

Labour

Change

Green

LD

Votes

400,257 177,964 536,810 0 400,587 604,730

% of votes

17.9 7.9 24.0 0 17.9 27.0

1

400,257 177,964 536,810 0 400,587 604,730

2

400,257 177,964 536,810 0 400,587 302,365

3

400,257 177,964 268,405 0 400,587 302,365

4

400,257 177,964 268,405 0 200,294 302,365

5

200,129 177,964 268,405 0 200,294 302,365

6

200,129 177,964 268,405 0 200,294 201,577

7

200,129 177,964 178,937 0 200,294 201,577

8

200,129 177,964 178,937 0 200,294 151,182

Total

1 0 2 0 2 3

 

 

TABLE 5e/ TABLE 3: Another strategy would have been for everyone to back the leading party. In the  polls in May that was clearly the Liberal Democrats. Arithmetically, that would give the same result as the common Remain platform - see Table 3.

 

 

TABLE 6: what if it had been a referendum? We turn a May 2019 London opinion poll about votes in a potential referendum into seats using the D'Hondt method (so this is not based in any way on the election result)

 

 

Remain

Leave with the deal

% of opinion poll

71 29

1

71 29

2

35.5 29

3

23.7 29

4

23.7 14.5

5

17.75 14.5

6

14.2 14.5

7

14.2 9.7

8

11.8 9.7

Total

6 2

 

Source: YouGov for Mile End Institute of Queen Mary College, University of London. Fieldwork 7-10 May. Sample 1,015 - all in London

Question: "Imagine there was a new referendum on whether Britain should leave the EU under the terms of the deal [that has been agreed between the Government and the EU] or Remain a member of the EU, how would you vote?"

Excludes would not vote, don't know, did not answer (21% of unadjusted poll).

It's one poll. It comes with a margin of error (about 3 %age points). Do not take the result too seriously.

 

 

 

Articles on this page reflect the views of the author and not necessarily of London4Europe.