Monday, 8 June 2009

The European Elections: some number crunching and reflections

30 years ago yesterday, on June 7th, 1979, the United Kingdom voted for the first time in an election to the European Parliament. The turnout (32.7%) was less than half that of the General Election that had taken place the previous month, and the result was dismal for the Labour Party who were defeated even more convincingly by the Conservatives than they had been in General Election. The Conservatives polled 50.56% of the vote in England, Scotland and Wales, with the Labour Party getting 33.04%. The Liberals were a distant third on 13.13%. (Under the First Past the Post system, Labour got a mere 17 seats, compared to Conservatives’ 60, and the Liberals got nothing.) Other than the SNP and Plaid Cymru, other parties polled insignificantly.

Since then, there have been 6 elections for the European Parliament. Turnout has continued to be poor, though it is considerably higher when there are local elections on the same day, as was the case last week. And what of the results? I have produced a table showing the results of the three main parties, and also of the three main minor parties - which in terms of votes cast, no longer includes the SNP and Plaid Cymru.

Vote (as a percentage of votes cast in England, Scotland & Wales)

* Liberal/SDP Alliance in 1984
** At that time know as the Ecology Party
*** Result for the NF

It will be noted that European Elections have not generally been good for the Labour Party - they’ve only come top twice in seven elections. But even so, last week’s election was a disaster.

For the Conservatives, the election may have looked good enough - but in fact, it was their second worst performance ever. Only in 2004 did they actually get a lower share of the vote.

The LibDems had a reasonable election, but it was not actually much better than the result of the Liberal Party 30 years ago, and well short of the Alliance vote in 1984.

The introduction of the List System has worked wonders for the minor parties - UKIP, the Greens, and the BNP are all going from strength to strength, though one suspects that the general discontent with the big parties at the moment probably has a lot to do with that. Six months ago, I would never have guessed that UKIP would actually improve on their performance in 2004.

And notice that even though the Greens had a very successful election, they are still a long way short of their remarkable result of 20 years ago - which was achieved largely at the expense of the LibDems.

1 comment:

patently said...

Interesting that Labour's support this year was on a par with the Green "protest vote" in 1989!

The other thing that strikes me is a steady move away from all three main parties.