Lies, damned lies and polls

Having pointed out in my last post, the misfortunate of electing a UKIP MEP in 2014 with 140k votes, while there were 450k votes or more that clearly wouldn't have wanted this stacked up in useless piles, the question is whether anything can be done about this.

Now I spent most of my political life as a member of firstly the Liberal Democrats and then the Greens, both proponents of PR and both parties who suffer under First Past the Post.  So I am always wary of cries from major parties to vote for them for fear of letting the 'other' in.  And this is a PR election, just not a very good form of PR that doesn't let people express a second choice.  So if we are serious about blocking Brexit, we need to act.

Clearly in the Remain camp are the SNP, LibDems, Greens and CUK.  Labour appear ambivalent - foolishly so in my view, as the flight from Labour in the English local elections testifies.  And we have to count Tories as Brexiteers, prisoners of the ERG despite wiser counsel from such as Ken Clarke along side UKIP and Brexit, Farage's latest personal vehicle.

So, harkening back to #ToryFreeScotland, many people want a #BrexitFreeScotland.

But we are at risk of simply repeating 2014 again when despite there being 450k votes available to defeat UKIP, their 140k was sufficient to elect Coburn.

What could have been different?  Well, this is one simulation.  Click on the image title to take you to the website, then click on Scotland.  Select 2014 in the drop down box at the top and then play with the sliders to see what could have happened if some people had changed their vote.

But that is 5 years ago and much has changed.  Polls are odd things and every one has a margin of error.  The big national polls typically sample 100-200 people in Scotland which isn't enough to get a statistically robust sample.  I look for polls with sample sizes of over 1000 for Scotland.

Here is the Survation Poll  (Fieldwork 18 - 24 April 2019, sample 1018 in Scotland) translated into seats:

SNP Lab Con UKIP Green LibDem Brexit CUK
Stage 1 39.0 20.0 16.0 2.0 3.0 6.0 10.0 4.0
Stage 2 19.5 20.0 16.0 2.0 3.0 6.0 10.0 4.0
Stage 3 19.5 10.0 16.0 2.0 3.0 6.0 10.0 4.0
Stage 4 19.5 10.0 8.0 2.0 3.0 6.0 10.0 4.0
Stage 5 13.0 10.0 8.0 2.0 3.0 6.0 10.0 4.0
Stage 6  9.8 10.0 8.0 2.0 3.0 6.0 10.0 4.0

By Unknown - Gooreen collection, Public Domain,
This poll puts Labour and Brexit neck and neck for the 6th seat with the SNP a nose behind.  Within the margin of error of polls, its hard to predict.

You can select this Poll on the voter switch simulation map mentioned above and try out switch strategies for yourself.  

What's certain is the CUK, Greens and LibDems are not part of the mix and that's 13% of votes that could be pivotal in determining whether Farage and Co get to smile on 23rd May.    Even tenth of those votes switching could make the difference but within the accuracy of polls, I'd not like to call it that finely.  

It's up to Liberal Democrat, Greens and CUK voters whether they want to switch and where.   It may be that Independence pushes most Greens to SNP (and the SNP seem to be casting their net that way with recent changes in approach to climate change).

But assuming that even UKIP supporter realise that Brexit is now the main de facto Brexit Party, I'd not like to rely on luck.

So its with some sadness, that I won't be voting LibDem or Green at this election (sorry, Sheila).  I certainly think CUK should chuck it in at this point.  

I'll vote SNP.  

If you can't bring yourself to do that, perhaps due to a strong unionist bent, then I'd suggest LibDem.  CUK are untested but the profile of voters is 'LibDemmy'.  

And of course LibDems might be an acceptable home for Labour and Tory Remain.  


I get slight cross when the method of allocating seats for the European Parliament Elections is referred to as complicated.  So long as you can divide by 2,3,4,5,6,7,8 and 9 its really easy.

Lets look at the last European Result in Scotland in 2014.  Scotland has 6 MEPs to elect.

2014 Election
Party SNP Lab Con UKIP Green LibDem Brit1st BNP NO2EU Total
Votes 389,503 346,219 231,330 140,534 108,305 95,319 13,639 10,316 6,418 1,341,583
Stage 2 194,752 346,219 231,330 140,534 108,305 95,319 13,639 10,316 6,418 1,341,583
Stage 3 194,752 173,110 231,330 140,534 108,305 95,319 13,639 10,316 6,418 1,341,583
Stage 4 194,752 173,110 115,665 140,534 108,305 95,319 13,639 10,316 6,418 1,341,583
Stage 5 129,834 173,110 115,665 140,534 108,305 95,319 13,639 10,316 6,418 1,341,583
Stage 6  129,834 115,406 115,665 140,534 108,305 95,319 13,639 10,316 6,418 1,341,583

The SNP has the largest number of votes, 389,503 so they get a seat (red).  But for them to get a second that pool of votes would need to be shared between 2 MEPs so their vote is divided into 2 for Stage 2.  

In Stage 2, Labour has the highest number so they get an MEP and their vote is divided by 2.

In Stage 3, The Tories get a seat and their vote is divided by 2.  

In Stage 4, the SNP get a second seat.  Now if the SNP were to get a third seat, their vote would need to be shared between 3, so their original vote is now divided by 3. 

In Stage 5,  Labour get a second seat and like the SNP in Stage 4, their original vote is not divided by 3.  

In Stage 6, UKIP has the highest number and therefore takes the final seat.  

You'll notice a few things here : the parties will very low number of votes - Brit1st,BNP, No2EU didn't get a look in.    But neither did Greens or LibDems.  Greens would have needed some 32,000 more votes to overtake UKIP - an increase of some 30% on their performance.  For Greens to have won, they would have needed to find nearly 1 extra voter for every 2 they had.  That's a big hill.  The hill for the LibDems was even steeper.

The SNP was the numerical runner up.  But for them to reach 140k they too would need  to find another 32,000 voter (32,100 to be exact).  That's because the 129,834 figures is a third of their original vote.  However, it is perhaps easier to envisage the SNP finding an extra 8%.   

However you wish to cut it however, UKIP with 140k votes won despite there being nearly 450k unused votes between SNP, Labour, Greens and LibDems and I'm hoping very few of those voters would be happy with the thought that their votes sat in a useless pile while UKIP got elected.  

And that's the weakness of d'Hondt : it's the second dumbest electoral system after first past the post as it doesn't allow transfers between parties.   And of course, parties get to decide the order of candidates on the list and there is nothing voters can do about this.

If you'd like that explained a different way, watch this video

You Tube

If you've read this far and want to know how my preferred system of proportional system works see