I have been investigating Bernard’s Dilemma. This I have named after the noted historian of British imperialism and an arch-Remainer, Bernard Porter, who wonders whether despite being a Labour supporter, the referendum-like nature of the E.U. Parliamentary elections on the 23rd May might justify him voting for a clear pro-Remain party (which sadly Labour is not. Yet, anyway.) The headline figures from this election will be the number of seats gained or lost and/or vote share. Given the vagaries of the D’Hondt system of proportional voting used in these elections, it can be a complex job figuring out quite how many seats a certain party will end up with, so I suspect vote share will be the clearest guide to the electorate’s wishes. But let’s not even count on that – the polling figures are currently all over the place, although they consistently show the Brexit party in top slot with Labour second. One figure which I think will probably be quite predictable is for turnout, which in the Yorkshire and Humber region was 33.5% in 2014. I suspect it will remain in the same area. Then, UKIP (now clearly replaced by the Brexit party) won 31.1% of the vote and Labour came in on 29.3%. What everybody seems to agree on is that the Tories will do considerably worse this time round. Labour, it is believed will also fare worse, but not as bad as the Tories.
In 2014 UKIP won 3 seats, Labour 2 and Tories 1 seat in the Yorkshire and Humber Region. Based on a Comres national poll conducted 10-12 May (Brexit 27%, Lab 25%, Con 15%, LD 13% and Green 7%) the LibDems could possibly win back a seat – reducing the Brexit party to 2. It would be between them and Brexit on the sixth round of voting. Labour and Conservatives would have the same number as before. I am not sure this would signal very much. If the turnout of 2014 was exactly replicated this time round, but the vote divided up as the Comres poll suggests, then the clear Brexit parties (Brexit/Con) would win 544,614 votes; ‘sitting on the fence’ (Labour) 324,175; definite Remain (Green/LibDem) 343,625. I suppose it might well be argued that potentially the biggest influence on Labour’s future position would be a big swing behind the Remain parties (which of course includes ‘Change UK’). The only problem with that at the moment is that none of the polls suggest it’s likely there will be such a shift to the remain position. I think it is a bit wishful to assume that this election can simply be treated as an in/out binary choice. It is not a referendum, although some people, e.g. Farage wish to talk it up that way.
Anyway, I will not vote as if it were. It happens that the top-listed regional Labour candidate is Richard Corbett, an ardent remainer who is also leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Group and so also a member of Labour’s NEC. I am happy to entrust the remain cause in Richard’s hands. The remain camp within the Labour Party needs to be strengthened, not weakened, and given the hostile environment Corbyn’s Labour faces generally, the party’s vote share needs to be kept as high as possible. There won’t be that many people sitting down and wondering how the D’Hondt system divvied out the seats. But I’m counting on the probability that Farage’s crowd will – even if they believe it’s all a foreign plot whatever the result.
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