Lib Dem or Green is usually best tactical vote in England

by Hugo Dixon | 20.05.2019

If you just want to send a straightforward message that you back pro-EU parties, there are three equally good choices for voters in England on Thursday: the Lib Dems, Greens and Change UK. In Scotland there is also the SNP and in Wales Plaid Cymru. But if you also want to boost the number of MEPs from pro-EU parties – and deny MEPs to parties that are pro-Brexit or sitting on the fence – voting Lib Dem or Green is your best bet in English regions. We’ve analysed the latest polling data below.

Pro-Europeans should not vote Labour because Jeremy Corbyn has been mealy-mouthed about whether to back a People’s Vote. Although he took a further baby step in the direction of a new referendum on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday, that was arguably only because he fears votes slipping away to the Lib Dems and Greens.

If you want to send a particularly powerful message to Corbyn, it may make sense to vote Lib Dem. This is because in two opinion polls – including a vast one by YouGov for Best for Britain  – it is now in second place ahead of Labour. If Vince Cable’s party defeats Corbyn’s at the polls, the pressure on Labour to say unequivocally that he wants a new referendum may be irresistible.

If you also want to get as many MEPs from pro-EU parties as possible – and to deny Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party as many MEPs as possible – it makes sense to engage in tactical voting. The Lib Dems and Greens would gain more MEPs, while the Brexit Party would lose some of the 32 seats it is currently projected to get. The Tories and Labour could lose a few too.

It should be stressed that getting MEPs from pro-EU parties should not be the main goal on Thursday. If we don’t stop Brexit, it will be irrelevant who are our MEPs. It will be our MPs in Westminster who determine the course of Brexit – and our prime purpose should be to influence them.

It should also be stressed that tactical voting is not a science. The right course of action depends on how good the data is about how other people are going to vote in different regions of the country. Although Best for Britain’s 9,260 person poll is large, that still works out at an average of only 840 people for each of Great Britain’s 11 regions and nations. This means we can’t be 100% sure of any tactical voting recommendations.

However, with these caveats, it could still make sense to vote tactically. The headline conclusion is don’t vote Change UK as, with only 4% of the vote nationally, it is unlikely to get any MEPs. It would be better to vote instead for the Lib Dems or Greens. Ditto if you were thinking of voting Labour: it’s better to vote Lib Dem or Green.

Dos and d’Hondts

The European Parliament elections are being held under the d’Hondt system. It’s a sort of proportional representation system. England is divided into nine regions, each with a specific number of MEPs. Scotland and Wales are their own constituencies. (Northern Ireland has a different voting system – and isn’t covered in this article).

The maths in the d’Hondt system is fairly complex. (Read this for an explanation). But it’s fair to say that it’s bad for very small parties – and a few percentage points either way can determine the number of MEPs pro-European parties will secure.

In thinking through the right course of action, defence (making sure one doesn’t lose a projected seat) may be as important as offence (gaining one from a party that is pro-Brexit or sitting on the fence).

We are not giving specific recommendations about how to vote in each region. But here is our analysis of the opportunities and threats in each constituency – ranked in order of size – all based on the data in the YouGov poll for Best for Britain.

South East England – 10 seats

The Lib Dems are projected to get two MEPs and the Greens one. The Brexit party is projected to get five MEPs despite securing only 37% of the vote.

The Lib Dems could get one of the Brexit Party’s projected MEPs if they secure at least 60% as many votes as Farage’s party. Given that they only need just over 22%, they are in striking distance.

London – 8 seats

The Lib Dems are ahead with 24% of the vote. But they get only two MEPs – the same as the Brexit Party and Labour. The Greens, on 14%, get only one.

The Lib Dems would get a third MEP if they could get at least 50% more than Labour. And the Greens could get a second one if they pulled ahead of Labour. In either case, Labour would lose its second MEP.

North West England – 8 seats

The Lib Dems get only one seat despite getting 17% of the vote – while Labour gets two MEPs with 22% of the vote. The Greens and Tories each get one MEP with 9% of the vote – but they only just squeak over the line.

If the Lib Dems get more than double the Tories’ vote, which they are very close to, they will nab its projected MEP. But if at the same time, the Tories pull ahead of the Greens, it will be the Greens that lose their projected MEP.

East of England – 7 seats

The Lib Dems are projected to get one seat with 17% and the Greens to get one with 10%. The Brexit Party is projected to get four seats.

But the Lib Dems aren’t far away from taking one of the Brexit Party’s projected MEPs. To do that, they would need to get over half what the Brexit Party is projected to receive. In other words, they would have to push their 17% up to 20%. Meanwhile, the Greens’ projected one MEP is under threat because they are only one point ahead of the Tories, who aren’t currently projected to get any seats.

West Midlands – 7 seats

Here the Greens and Lib Dems each get an MEP with 14% and 13% of the vote respectively. The Tories just squeak in with one too.

The best hope – albeit a slim one – is if either the Greens or the Lib Dems manage to get at least double the Conservatives’ vote. They would then pick up its seat.

Scotland – 6 seats

The SNP is projected to get three MEPs – with the Brexit Party, Greens and Labour each getting one. The situation, though, is extremely volatile. Labour is only a nose ahead of the Tories – and the Greens aren’t much ahead of Labour. Meanwhile, the Brexit Party would only need an extra point to take away Labour’s projected MEP.

The only real chance for pro-Europeans doing better is if the Lib Dems (on 7%) overtake Labour (on 10%). The main risk is that the Greens lose their projected MEP.

South West England – 6 seats

Here, the Lib Dems (on 20%) and the Greens (on 12%) are each projected to get one MEP. The Brexit Party gets a whopping four MEPs with only 42% of the vote.

The big opportunity here is for the Lib Dems to take one of the Brexit Party’s projected MEPs. To do that, they need to get at least half the Brexit Party’s vote – on current projections, just another 1% or so. There is, though, also a risk that the Greens won’t get any MEP if they fall below 10%.

Yorkshire and the Humber – 6 seats

The Lib Dems (on 16%) and the Greens (on 13%) are each projected to get one MEP, as is Labour. The Brexit Party gets three MEPs with its 33%.

If the Lib Dems can get at least two thirds of the Brexit Party’s score – or 22% – they could rob it of one of its projected MEPs. But if at the same time the Greens fall below 11%, they will be the ones to lose their projected seat rather than the Brexit Party.

East Midlands – 5 seats

The Lib Dems are projected to get a seat, but the Greens miss out. Meanwhile, the Brexit Party gets three MEPs with only 37% of the vote.

The opportunity here is for the Greens to nab one of the Brexit Party’s projected MEPs by pulling ahead of the Tories and getting at least one-third of what the Brexit Party polls. On these projections, it needs at least two more points.

Wales – 4 seats

Here Plaid Cymru gets one seat and so does Labour. The Lib Dems and Greens end up with none. The Brexit Party gets two MEPs with just 35% of the vote.

The best bet for pro-Europeans is if the Lib Dems (on 9%) manage to pull ahead of Labour (on 15%) and get its projected MEP. On these figures, it’s a tall order – but just possible.

North East England – 3 seats

Neither Lib Dems nor Greens are projected to get a seat.

The best bet is that the Lib Dems (on 12%) nab one of the Brexit Party’s projected two seats. To do that, they need at least half the Brexit Party’s 35% – ie 17.5%.

If all these bets came off – which they are most unlikely to – the Lib Dems and Greens would get another 11 MEPs between them. That would take them up from 18 to a combined 29. The Brexit Party’s MEPs would drop from 32 to 26. Labour would fall from 12 to nine MEPs and the Tories would slump from four to two.

If you wish to play around with the data, Best for Britain has created a tool that allows you to test out endlessly different permutations.

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Edited by Luke Lythgoe

7 Responses to “Lib Dem or Green is usually best tactical vote in England”

  • Depressing reading but I fear I will have to abstain from the eu polls
    Our remain campaign would have been far better spent by respecting the result of the referendum then campaigning on their short comings
    Rather like a general election, form an opposition and GET STUCK IN
    This persistent bickering and discrediting is merely adding fuel and momentum to the far right
    Accept then campaign rather then deny and fight and fuel the ones that feel THEIR peoples vote has been ignored

  • Responding to Dave. There used to be a single argument for a new public vote: leaving the UK is terrible for the nation and its citizens. As far as I can see, there are further arguments to add to that, and the bickering has been unavoidable. I’m sorry you’re abstaining; if people like you do so, only the Brexit Party will be helped.
    We’ve surely reached a point where Labour must be reckoned anti-Brexit, since (i) May isn’t going to get a Deal through (at least not with Labour help ), and (ii) the Labour Party will do everything it can to prevent a NoDeal exit. The pity is that it’s been via Jeremy Corbyn’s contortions that we’ve eventually reached the point where Labour members and 2017 voters could show themselves in their true colours _and_ vote Labour on Thursday. BUT I see that pollsters aren’t reckoning the Labour Party an anti-Brexit Party. And since what matters is that votes for the pro-Brexit [now effectively pro No Deal] Parties should not outnumber votes for anti-Brexit Parties (in the reckoning of those who’ll do the sums), the case against voting Labour is strong.

  • it’s good to see the most deeply pro European Party, the LibDems, as the clear challengers nationally, where they are in 2nd place according to further analysis in that yougov poll. In S.East England they are likely to take 2 seats, compared to the Greens 1.

  • Dave, I have a better suggestion. I recommend that you vote in the EU elections for the liberal democrats. In addition, persuade as many people as possible in your circle of family, friends and acquaintancies to do the same.

    As a result, you’ll feel better for it and have done something for the remain campaign.

    Remember, there are too many people who “talk” but do “nothing”. Try the “do something” method and ask others to do the same.


  • I just noticed the latest polling by YouGov, in the New European (online):

    “The polling by YouGov found of those who have made up their minds and would vote in a second referendum, 61% would back staying in the European Union over the government’s deal.

    By contrast 34% of people would back a no-deal Brexit – three times the amount of those who would back the government’s strategy.

    Theresa May’s deal currently has just 12% support.”

    No wonder the Brexiters from all colours are turning up the rhetoric, with an increased barrage of aggressive language and outright lies and distortions of the situation.

    Therefore, Dave, once again, don’t give up – just get the message out to people!

  • Another important reason to vote for an unambiguous Remain party on 23rd May, is that you know there will be a never-ending line of Conservative politicians who will count the Labour vote as in favour of Brexit. It would be the same rhetoric as they used to claim 80% voted in favour of Brexit at the 2017 General Election.