Firstly I would like to set a bit of context to this argument and the evidence to be presented. I am the founder of UK Unity and co-founder of Unity News Network, a genuine grassroots movement to campaign for Brexit & national enewal and a modern news information centre.
I have always been a 'euro-sceptic' but up until around a few months previous to the referendum of 2016 I was veering Remain, this was until David Cameron was humiliated in his negotiations and then I realised that we had to leave the EU. Leaving the EU means a full and proper Brexit. This has to be a WTO Brexit and a clean break, without this the reality is the UK would be a rule taker and colony of the EU.
In terms of voting and party loyalties I have been a member of both the Conservative Party and The Labour Party. Socially I believe in family values and promoting the Christian heritage of the UK. However economically I believe in a system that works for everyone and not just multi-nationals or big business. I have been around and involved in Politics for nearly 13 years and as a 'canny Scot' I am extremely sceptical of those who promise undeliverable aims and grandiose plans in order to string the wider public along. In anything that both UK Unity or Unity News has said it will do in terms of raising money it has delivered, we are not in the game of exploiting people or playing on emotions but rather delivering achievables.
Leaving the EU allows us to reclaim our sovereignty and independence as a nation. It also allows us to go down a new economic path away from the neo-liberal Blairite policies that have destroyed many working class communities of Britain and reduced the overall feeling of wealth in the UK. We can set our own trade deals and prioritise our own industries.
It doesn't look likely that we will be leaving the European Union anytime soon and even if we do it looks more and more likely it will be the softest of Brexit's with membership of the customs union which is an unmitigated disaster.
So this leads us on to the coming Council Elections on May the 2nd and also The European Elections at the end of May, many people have been asking for a comprehensive analysis of how this might play out so here it is.
COUNCIL ELECTIONS ANALYSIS:
At the Council Elections leave.eu initially recommended that people 'spoil their ballot papers'. However they have now started a campaign saying #anyonebuttory.
The reason we reference leave.eu is that they are by far and away the largest pro-Brexit campaign in the UK in terms of social media following and they are supportive of the new Brexit Party/ Nigel Farage movement. Founded by Arron Banks they now have The Westmonster news site in their portfolio as well, they are also intrinsically linked to Leave Means Leave with Richard Tice it's founder being a co-chair of leave.eu but he has since left that position.
Leave.eu are also embarking on a significant campaign to deselect Conservative MP's who they feel are going against the Brexit decision and appear to have had considerable success so far in claiming the scalp of Dominic Grieve and now steps afoot to remove David Gauke.
However, The Brexit Party is not standing any candidates in the local elections meaning that the only avowed pro- WTO Brexit Party is UKIP.
I was a Councillor for 5 years in Scotland where we have a different system of elections and also more powers held by local councillors than down South. However I fully believe in and embrace local democracy as so much voting takes place on party and national lines.
So on Thursday 2 May 2019 politicians will be contesting about 270 English local councils, six directly elected mayors in England, and all 11 local councils in Northern Ireland. Additionally, there will be by-elections for a number of local authority seats.
Now I would love to be able to do a detailed analysis of every single council etc but sadly do not have the time available to do that. I firmly believe the Tory Party needs taught a lesson but in the instance of the Council elections I would disagree with leave.eu's somewhat simplistic guide to voting for a number of reasons.
Firstly poll after poll has shown that the majority of genuine grassroots Conservatives believe in a full and clean WTO Brexit and the majority of these people will be candidates in the coming election.
Secondly one of the main issues within the Conservative Party is that the grassroots are very much maligned and by becoming local councillors they can exert considerable influence on the direction of the Party.
Thirdly local elections need to start being fought again on local issues. Although 17.4 million voted to Leave I am always keen to remind people that this is not one homogenous voting block, it is made of all political shades from ultra-libertarians to Communists with many shades in between. Likewise we have seen so far that this bloc hasn't fully mobilised yet for change within the UK, many people voted to leave the EU but that does not make them committed Brexit supporters. The same also applies on the Remain side and in my opinion is often a mistake made by the political commentariat.
So on the local elections what would my analysis and recommendations be:
1- Treat them as a local election first and foremost. Listen to what local candidates have to say and then look at what is important to you in helping decide how to vote. Remember there will be a lot of good independents standing as well. If for example a local issue is more important to you and your family then prioritise that, remember these Councillors will be in for years affecting your daily life on so many important issues.
2- If Brexit is the most important issue to you then enquire and find out the position of the local candidates, it is safe to say that you can immediately rule out the Lib Dems and The Greens in this regard.
3- If the local Labour or Conservative candidate is a believer in a full and clean WTO Brexit then consider giving them your vote as we cannot just write off the main parties as yet as I will go on to explain later on re the First Past The Post system.
4- If you are totally disheartened by the main parties and want to send a message then consider voting for UKIP.
5- Under extremely limited circumstances consider spoiling your ballot, my suggestion would be to do this if all the other options above are not available or do not appeal to you.
So this in my opinion is far bigger from a Brexit perspective than the Local elections coming up. Firstly for the fact that the UK should have already left the European Union by now and should not even be taking part! I must admit to holding a somewhat prejudicial position towards these elections in that MEP's of all shades would make our own MP's blush over their exorbitant expenses and largesse living it up in Brussels and Strasbourg. I am also of the opinion that the EU Parliament is more suited to a place of political grandstanding rather than raw politics that can improve the lives of the British People.
The monthly pre-tax salary of MEPs is €8,484 which is the equivalent of an annual gross salary of €101,808 (since July 2016). The cost is met from the European Parliament’s budget and is subject to an EU tax and accident insurance contribution, after which the monthly salary is €6,611. UK MEPs also pay National Insurance contributions under the UK system and the difference between EU and national tax, so the total amount of tax is as for an equivalent UK salary. The salary level is based on 38.5% of the basic salary of a judge at the European Court of Justice and is changed in line with that salary. They also receive extremely generous pension provisions.
There is also €4,416 monthly “general expenditure allowance” awarded to MEPs to fund their constituency offices, which costs the public purse €40m a year. MEPs are also refunded first-class travel expenses and get a €313 daily allowance for hotel and living costs when working in Brussels and Strasbourg of which no receipts need to be provided so please forgive me if my Presbyterian scepticism kicks in on the motivations behind those wanting to stand again.
Likewise I would ask you how many MEP's from the UK you can actually name? If we don't send our best to Westminster then we are certainly not sending our best to Strasbourg and Brussels!
At the last EU election on a turnout of 35.6% the following were elected:
Lib Dems 1
Plaid Cymru 1
Sinn Fein 1
UKIP gained 26.6% of the vote to take first place on a turnout of just under 36%.
Britain’s MEPs are currently comprised as follows:
UKIP 7 (one of whom is not part of UKIP’s EU grouping)
Lib Dems 1
Plaid Cymru 1
Sinn Fein 1
Independents 10 (in at least four different independent groupings)
There is a perception that MEPs are elected on a system of Proportional Representation but they are in fact elected under a system knows as the D'Hondt method which in an article I have referenced further down by Alastair Meeks on Political Betting is explained in more detail.
We must start from a position that a vote for either the Tories, Labour, Liberal Democrats (and if Umunna's Change Group stands) in the Euro elections is a complete waste and if you believe in a WTO Brexit then none of these parties can even be considered. This is then where the fun starts...
I remember as a 15 year old The Referendum Party standing under Jimmy Goldsmith exposing the fractures existing within The Tory Party post Maastricht. Out of the ashes of this came UKIP and the rest is of course history. The eponymous figure throughout the rise and success of UKIP is Nigel Farage. A figure who arouses strong emotions on all sides and his role in this process cannot be underestimated. As someone without an axe to grind either for or against UKIP/ Farage I am going to objectively explain as best I can about the situation we now find ourselves in.
UKIP was always an uneasy coalition of different political persuasions that united around the common theme of exiting the EU. Since the referendum of 2016 it descended into freefall with a series of hapless leaders such as Paul Nuttall and Henry Bolton taking the party to a near state of financial abyss. During that time former UKIP figures Anne Marie Waters and John Rees-Evans went off and formed The For Britain Movement and The Democrat & Veterans Party respectively.
Long-term UKIP MEP and founding member Gerard Batten assumed the leadership of UKIP in what was supposed to initially be a one year role. In this time he has provided financial stability to UKIP as well increasing the membership and attracting a whole host of prominent younger internet savvy members.
There has also been criticism from the mainstream media and prominent ex UKIP officials that the party has lurched to 'The Far Right' and a great deal of controversy has existed, rightly or wrongly, around Gerard Batten's relationship with Tommy Robinson. Tommy Robinson is barred from joining UKIP due to his previous membership of the BNP but there were moves to allow the party to use their constitution to allow an exception to be made. Batten then appointed Robinson to a role advising him personally on Grooming Gangs.
As a result of this Nigel Farage left UKIP and since then there has been a war of words on both sides surrounding the best way forward. In an inglorious moment for Farage he described marchers at an upcoming Brexit rally as potential being 'drunken thugs tattoed up to the eyeballs', this of course was untrue and peddled a continuing MSM lie about Brexit supporters.
Batten has also used his Twitter platform to mock 'The Brexit Party' stating that it has lost its initial leader and treasurer and mounts to know more than a personality cult around Farage.
Both Batten and Farage have intimated that both parties will put up a full list of candidates throughout the UK in the coming EU elections. The lines are drawn in the sand, The Brexit Party will get the support of leave.eu, most mainstream media coverage and unofficial support from Leave Means Leave. They will also have significant funds at their disposal.
UKIP will have an extremely motivated membership, existing party infrastructure, social media outliers and strong brand recognition but will face strong attacks from the mainstream media.
Meaning no harm to either For Britain or the DVP at this stage I will be ruling them out from the continuing discussion. If you feel that these parties are best to represent you then by all means vote for them but in my assessment they neither have the money, resources or media clout to get MEPs elected and of course I may be wrong there.
So now I want to introduce you to an article written by Alastair Meeks (somewhat anti- Brexit but factually accurate) on the outstanding political blog Politicalbetting.com
MEPs are elected by multi-member constituencies under what is called the D’Hondt method. This is often, but incorrectly, described as proportional representation. It is really a repeat first past the post system for parties. So in the North East England constituency last time round Labour got two out of three seats on just 36.5% of the vote. Not, I suggest, very proportional.
How can this happen? The answer lies in the wasted votes. Let’s take a real live current example. On Monday a Welsh opinion poll gave the following finding for the Euro elections:
Plaid Cymru: 15%
Brexit Party: 10%
Change UK: 8%
Liberal Democrats: 6%
There are four seats at stake in Wales. Labour would get two, the Conservatives would get one and Plaid Cymru would get one. Although the “others” mount up to 39% of the vote share, more than any individual party, all this shrapnel would all go unrepresented. The three bigger parties would be dealing with a deck of just 61% of the vote between them. The D’Hondt method does not work very well in an increasingly-fragmented political scene.
Note, if either UKIP or the Brexit party can establish itself as the headbangers’ party of choice, they would comfortably get a seat – the votes are there if they are not divided. Similarly, if the Lib Dems and Change UK team up, they will be a gnat’s whisker away from getting a seat even if the polls don’t move.
The effect is most marked in small multi-member constituencies. South East England has ten MEPs at stake so a party would only need a maximum of 9% to ensure representation and very possibly rather less: the Lib Dems got one last time on 8% of the vote.
If the Welsh poll were replicated in South East England (yes, I know, but bear with me), Labour would get three or four seats, the Conservatives would get two seats, Plaid would get one or two seats, UKIP would get one seat, Brexit would get one seat and Change would get one seat.
This looks more proportional. Even so, if UKIP and Brexit united and Change and the Lib Dems united, each grouping would be in with a real shout of an extra seat if the mood moved in their respective directions, as each grouping might reasonably hope.
What this means is that all the small pro and anti-Brexit parties have a hard decision to make. Do they stick to their principles and in all likelihood see their cause suffer in the seat count? Or do they seek to unite under a broad front with the aim of winning more seats but at the expense of purity of principle? I expect for now they’ll choose purity over electoral success.
This election, of course, looks set to be all about Brexit which in turn implies that both pro and anti-Brexit parties will do better than polling currently suggests (and if there is a boycott, it is likely to be by annoyed Conservative Leavers rather than those who want to send a message through one of the militant pro-Leave parties).
But if you’re thinking about the seat count, be aware that the maths favours bigger parties more than you would expect from a proportional system, particularly those that are stronger in the smaller constituencies. This gives Labour a small but significant advantage. Unless the smaller parties get their act together, they could easily overperform in the seat count.
Therein lies the crux of the matter, Twitter and Facebook politics are not good barometers of the country at large as real opinion polling has shown. Likewise national opinion polling was supported by the results of the Newport West by election.
The latest national polling is as follows but many different polls show different things:
So I am going to move away from a less evidence based approach to one of predictions based around the facts at my disposal just now.
The above is certainly a laudible aim and one I would certainly support in the coming elections but it is important to look at the track record for Mr Farage and now The Brexit Party to see if this is possible or mere bravado. At the 2015 general election UKIP polled just shy of 4 millions which was its Westminster high watermark. At the last EU election it won an incredible 4.3 million voters as well.
In the UK people still very much vote along family and class lines, at the last election the two party system was very much entrenched with 82.5% of voters opting for Tory or Labour. Whilst Brexit is the issue of the day it is misguided to think that people will quickly and radically change their voting patterns. See latest polling for EU elections below:
So let's just say realistically at the next EU election there is a potential electorate of around 47 million. Let's say that as a result of what is going on turnout increases (it could in fact fall as many have said they will not vote again) and 40 odd % of the electorate vote. This leaves a potential voting pool of 19 million voters to fight for across the UK.
Now traditionally people have used the EU elections to give the Government a bloody nose and I think certainly this will continue to be the case. However that wont be all Brexit supporters who are angry and motivated. The last general election saw an extremely effective grassroots campaign led by The Labour Party that involved students and has resulted in an entrenched Corbyn voting demographic. Likewise The Labour Party's stance on Brexit in looking to facilitate a second vote or embrace a Customs Union will appeal to soft remain voters who on the whole appear to be far more engaged in the process.
So now I am going to roll the dice and make some predictions based on polling as well as previous result to what I see as happening, please keep in mind this is going against polling and is being extremely generous to the pro- Brexit parties:
Labour will win 34% of the vote
Tories will win 21% of the vote
Brexit Party 16% of the vote
UKIP 11% of the vote
Lib Dems/ Change 12%
This would amount to 5.7million votes being shared between UKIP and the Brexit Party and this is wherein the problems lie. Even if they both do much better than that they cancel each other out by the D'Hondt system which isn't really PR as Alastair Meeks discussed. If you look at the percentage of seats vs percentage of votes above it favours you if you do well but if you look at the Greens and Lib Dem share of the vote the Greens polled 6.9% of votes and won 4.1% of seats whilst the lib dems polled 6.6% of votes won only 1.4% of seats.
Even on these numbers and more it would see neither the Brexit Party nor UKIP winning any seats in Scotland or Wales where previously UKIP had representation along with London and the North East of England.
The other major issue the Brexit Party will face is that it appears to be taking on what can only be described as a 'quasi-Tory' position with many of the leading lights being either former or current Conservatives who are angry with the way their Party is heading. As the leader of UKIP Farage was able to appeal to the working class communities of The North but I am not so sure if he will be able to do that in this vehicle.
There has also been significant discussion around whether the wider public are aware that Farage has even left UKIP. Please do not give any credence to Twitter polls or how many likes and shares something gets on social media. It is extremely good to spread a message but in raw political terms it is utterly meaningless!
As the D' Hondt system shows in these results the smaller you become in terms of size then the less seats you will achieve as a result. In the above UKIP are in purple from 2014, now imagine splitting this in half and with less. In 4 of the areas UKIP won 3 seats. In splitting the Brexit bloc there is a risk that that would drop down to only 2 per constituency.
Likewise there are areas that could prove to be more fertile ground such as the South East of England, West Midlands etc where vote share among the Brexit bloc could increase.
Other scenarios that could arise is the 52% of those who voted leave do corral around one party whereby The Brexit Party or UKIP could win around 40% of the vote but to be perfectly honest I don't see this happening at all but maybe I am wrong. What I foresee happening is that with the UKIP/ Brexit Party vote they cannibalise each others vote and the pro- Brexit bloc will in fact regress. In order to grow outwith the previous vote of UKIP would require significant swings away from Tory and Labour voters but it appears they have already bottomed out in the polls.
leave.eu have been creating imagery saying 73 Nigel Farage's could be elected this time to the EU Parliament but mathematically and electorally this is simply impossible as I have shown.
Meanwhile the excellent Political Blog Guido Fawkes has also just published the following which doesn't make pleasant reading for pro- Brexit voters:
New polling released today shows the Eurosceptic vote would be heavily split if European Elections were to be held, with Labour holding its vote together better than any other party. More significantly than split votes, the poll found that just 37.8% of leave voters said they were certain to vote, compared to just 46.9% of Remain voters. An almost 10 point enthusiasm gap…
18% of Leave voters on the other hand rated their likelihood to vote at just 1/10, compared to just 6.8% of Remain voters saying the same. Leave voters are demoralised and are more likely to stay home than be enthused to give the establishment another kicking…
The enthusiasm gap means that even in terms of share of the vote, the Eurosceptics fall far behind the Europhiles, who combined make up more than 58% of those who say they will vote. The splitting of the vote makes the complexity of forecasting the outcome a fool’s errand. The challenge for the Brexit Party is immense…
For reference, Guido can provide how the Eurosceptic and Europhile parties fared in 2014. Back then the Eurosceptics achieved 55% of the vote, today’s poll shows that has fallen to 40%. Bullish Eurosceptics should be worried…
So as a mere onlooker and campaigner in the political world I envisage 3 ways that things pan out:
1. A United Brexit Front- All pro- Brexit parties put aside previous issues and stand under one united banner: HIGHLY DOUBTFUL
2. UKIP/ Brexit Party agree not to stand against each other in selected constituencies: SLIM CHANCE
3. UKIP/ Brexit Party stand in all constituencies against each other and as a result the pro- Brexit vote share is somewhat diluted and nobody really wins. Aside from Farage, Batten and some others we will be left with a slew of new and old MEP's equally as useless as the previous ones enjoying a jolly at the taxpayers expense achieving little or nothing: MOST LIKELY
If the vote for Brexit Party/ UKIP does drop or less seats are won then the Remain establishment will opine that this is yet further evidence of the public having no appetite for a WTO Brexit.
So in conclusion I am sorry to be the bearer of more bad news and I hope you have found the above study thought provoking and easy enough to understand. It is not for me or UK Unity to tell you what way to vote in these elections but just to provide advice.
We will be making a series of videos around this topic to be discussed further and then we will also be doing some work on the difficulties faced by anyone trying to break the two party stranglehold.
If you have any questions/ observations or disagreements then please feel free to e-mail me on [email protected]
All the best,