As everybody will be aware, this is the week of the European Elections. With the UK initially expected to leave the EU in March (and currently set to leave in autumn), this has been a very unusual campaign. The country's ruling party - the Conservatives - are fearing finishing as low as sixth, whilst a completely newly-formed party appears set to win the most votes and seats on Thursday.
Anyway, one of the communications we received from the Lib Dems was a letter, which gave the usual spiel. However, at the end was a curious postscript:
First of all, we will look at the last elections in Scotland, and see what would have been required to stop a UKIP MEP in Scotland. This is the result for Scotland, which allocates 6 MEPs:
SNP - to get a third MEP the SNP would have needed more than three times UKIP's votes. This would mean they would have needed at least another 32,100 votes.
Labour - for a third MEP Labour would have needed to meet the same threshold as the SNP, which translates as another 73,384 votes.
Conservative - for a second Tory MEP they would have needed more than twice the number of votes for UKIP, which translates as 49,739 votes.
Green - this is much simpler. To deny UKIP's MEP, the Greens would just have needed to poll higher, which would have required 32,230 votes.
Liberal Democrat - using the same criteria as the Greens, we can see that the Lib Dems would have needed another 45,216 votes.
So the party best-placed last time to stop UKIP would have been the SNP, very closely followed by the Greens. These two are a way away from the Lib Dems.
Now, in fairness to Rennie, he did not say that the Lib Dems were best-placed to stop UKIP last time, he said they were best-placed this time. Which is very convenient...
So, let's look at the polls for the upcoming election.
2019 European Election
To estimate the vote in Scotland this week, we have averaged two recent polls, both by YouGov. One for The Times, and one for Best for Britain. We have assumed the same turnout as the 2014 election (1,343,483).
The seats would be allocated as follows:
- SNP 1st candidate (510,524)
- Brexit party 1st candidate (275,414)
- SNP 2nd candidate (255,262)
- SNP 3rd candidate (170,175)
- Brexit party 2nd candidate (137,707)
- Green or Labour 1st candidate (134,348)
The other thing to note here is that UKIP appear set to record very few votes. It would take a ten-fold increase in votes to challenge for a seat. So it's safe to say that it's a slightly bizarre statement by Rennie to pit UKIP as the threat.
We will assume that the focus therefore shifts to the Brexit party. If the polling numbers are in any way correct, the Brexit party will be guaranteed at least one seat. Thus, the battle is to prevent a second Brexit party MEP for Scotland. Again, we'll go through party-by-party:
SNP - if the SNP were to somehow gain a fourth MEP ahead of the Brexit party's second one, they would need to gain another 40,305 votes. On the flip side, they could afford to lose 97,402 votes and still have three MEPs ahead of the Brexit party's second one.
Green/Labour - in other to overtake the Brexit party's second MEP, each party would need a further 3,360 votes.
Liberal Democrat - the Lib Dems would need a further 16,795 votes to overtake the Brexit party's second MEP.
Change UK - the new party would need a ten-fold increase in their vote to be involved in the fight to deny the Brexit party a second MEP.
Conservative/UKIP - we will assume that these parties' voters do not view the Brexit party as their natural enemy in this vote.
Should you change your vote?
Bear in mind that two of the green increases above need to happen in order to deny the Brexit party a second Scottish MEP.
Therefore, for voters who wish to limit the number of Brexit party MEPs, they may wish to follow the following suggestions:
Currently planning to vote SNP - the SNP appear quite safe in returning three MEPs this week, therefore your vote may be more powerful if it is switched to one of the Greens, Labour or the Lib Dems. Politically, the Scottish Greens are the closest aligned to the SNP so would be the natural choice to switch to.
Currently planning to vote Green/Labour/Lib Dem - stay where you are.
Currently planning to vote Change UK - you would be best switching to the Greens, Labour or the Lib Dems. Politically, the Lib Dems appear the closest fit. However, the Lib Dems currently appear to be slightly behind the other two parties in the polls.
Tactical voting in a proportional system is far more complicated than in a first-past-the-post system, and really requires a good prediction of how the vote is going to go.
This article was inspired by a brief comment in a letter we received from the Scottish Lib Dems. Through looking at the data, the suggestion that the Lib Dems are the best bet to stop UKIP is pretty baffling. But it has allowed us to see how tactical voting could work in Scotland.
Either later today or tomorrow, I hope to be able to publish articles repeating this analysis for the other constituencies in the UK.