Europe 2009: United Kingdom
European elections in the United Kingdom will be held on June 4, 2009, at the same time as local elections in England.
Euro elections in the UK are held in twelve regional constituencies with a threshold of 5% in each, with seats allocated through proportional representation. Only Northern Ireland uses the single-transferable vote system, which is also used in all other Northern Irish elections. Prior to 1999, the UK was the only European country to elect MEPs via FPTP. The table below outlines these constituencies and the the changes in seat numbers since 2004. For reference, the UK’s delegation has been reduced from 75 to 72.
South East England: 10 seats (nc)
London: 8 seats (-1)
North West England: 8 seats (-1)
East of England: 7 seats (nc)
South West England: 7 seats (-1)
West Midlands: 6 seats (-1)
Yorkshire and the Humber: 6 seats (nc)
Scotland: 6 seats (-1)
East Midlands: 5 seats (-1)
Wales: 4 seats (nc)
North East England: 3 seats (nc)
Northern Ireland: 3 seats (nc)
As you probably know very well, the United Kingdom’s two main parties are Labour, a social democratic party that moved away from its left-wing socialist roots under Tony Blair to become a third way “New Labour”; and the Conservatives, typical European conservatives but also strongly opposed to European federalism and generally seen as Euroskeptic. Indeed, the Conservative Party, along with the Czech Civic Democrats, are members of the European Democrats party (which sits in the EPP-ED group in Parliament). The Liberal Democrats, founded by a merger of the old Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party in 1988, are social liberals and generally economically liberal (though the LibDems are not like the German FDP). The LibDems are the most strongly pro-EU party, and are also anti-Iraq war and have recently added a green liberal flair. The UK Independence Party (UKIP) is active mostly in Euro elections and favours the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union (a position not adopted by other Euroskeptic parties, such as the MPF in France). While the UKIP has other policies, it’s staunch opposition to the EU is it’s main and most famous position. The Green Party is also Euroskeptic, and strongly left-wing. The Scottish nationalists (SNP) and the Welsh nationalists (Plaid Cymru) have representation both in Bruxelles and in Westmister, and the SNP is currently the leading party in Scotland’s devolved Parliament. The British National Party, a far-right white nationalist/populist party, which has a very bad name, justifiably, is also active but has no representation in either Bruxelles or Westminster.
The results of the 2004 election:
Conservative (ED) 26.7% (-9%) winning 27 seats (-8)
Labour (PES) 22.6% (-5.4%) winning 19 seats (-6)
UKIP (ID) 16.1% (+9.2%) winning 12 seats (+10)
Liberal Democrats (ELDR) 14.9% (+2.3%) winning 12 seats (+2)
Green Party (EGP) 6.3% (nc) winning 2 seats (nc)
British National Party (Euronat) 4.9% (+3.9%)
Respect (EACL) 1.5% (new)
Scottish National Party (EFA) 1.4% (-1.3%) winning 2 seats (nc)
Plaid Cymru (EFA) 1% (-0.9%) winning 1 seat (-1)
Results by region:
South East England: 4 Con, 2 UKIP, 2 LibDem, 1 Lab, 1 Green
London: 3 Con, 3 Lab, 1 LibDem, 1 UKIP, 1 Green
North West England: 3 Lab, 3 Con, 2 LibDem, 1 UKIP
East of England: 3 Con, 2 UKIP, 1 Lab, 1 LibDem
South West England: 3 Con, 2 UKIP, 1 LibDem, 1 Lab
West Midlands: 3 Con, 2 Lab, 1 UKIP, 1 LibDem
Yorkshire and the Humber: 2 Lab, 2 Con, 1 LibDem, 1 UKIP
Scotland: 2 Lab, 2 SNP, 2 Con, 1 LibDem
East Midlands: 2 Con, 2 UKIP, 1 Lab, 1 LibDem
Wales: 2 Lab, 1 Con, 1 Plaid
North East England: 1 Lab, 1 Con, 1 LibDem
Northern Ireland: 1 DUP, 1 SF, 1 UUP
The UKIP has fallen in polls and recently took a thumping in the London elections last year (the last London elections, held on the same day as the 2004 Euros, were favourable to the UKIP). However, the UKIP (and BNP) got a boost from the MP’s expenses scandal which has hurt Gordon Brown’s Labour government a lot. While the scandal has also involved the Conservatives and LibDems, both parties were less affected because of what is perceived to be a better handling of the scandal by those parties’ respective leaders. Since the scandal, the UKIP’s rather dreary poll numbers turned around and returned to 2004 levels – even superior to that. Numbers for the Conservatives and most significantly Labour also collapsed, while LibDem numbers are hovering at or slightly above (or below) its 2004 result. However, certain polls have been placing the LibDems (or UKIP) ahead of Labour, bumping Labour to third. A third place showing would be a total disaster for Labour and could precipitate things in Westminster. The Greenies seem to have picked up some Labour voters, and they’re polling over the symbolic 10% line. The BNP’s poll numbers fluctuate, and I suspect they’re underestimated. The BNP has a definite chance at picking up a seat it narrowly missed out on in 2004 in the North West. Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, is running there.
In Scotland, the SNP is clearly ahead of Labour on most polling and that lead may replicate at the Euro level. A SNP victory in the Euros would be a symbolic victory for the party, which some say is headed to replace Labour as Scotland’s “natural governing party”. It is hard to say if Plaid Cymru is regaining ground lost in 2004 in Wales, since there is rarely polling from Wales.
In Northern Ireland, there should be no change in the seat allocation. However, it is likely that Jim Allister, elected for the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) but now a member of his Traditionalist Unionist Voice (TUV), which opposes the DUP’s coalition with the nationalist-Catholic Sinn Fein. Diane Dodds, the DUP candidate this time (each party runs only one candidate, even though there are 3 seats – it is extremely unlikely a party would win two in this system), is likely to pick up that seat. It will nonetheless be a test for anti-Accord Unionists, notably the TUV. The nationalists (Social Democratic and Labour Party, SDLP, of course) picking up a seat from the Unionists is practically impossible and Sinn Fein losing a seat to SDLP can also be ruled out.
All 27 English county councils and 3 existing and 5 new English unitary authorities are up for election. Except for Bristol Unitary Authority, where only a third of the seats are up, all seats are up. As of now, the Conservatives controlled 19 of the 27 councils, Labour controlled 4, the LibDems 2, and two (Cumbria, with Conservative-LibDem coalition, and Warwickshire, with a Conservative minority administration) had no overall control. Of the existing three unitary authorities, Bristol had NOC (LibDem minority) while the Isle of Wight had a Conservative majority and the Isles of Scilly were led by Independents. The new authorities are Bedford, West Bedfordshire, Cornwall, Shropshire, and Wiltshire. Direct mayoral elections are being held in Doncaster (Indie incumbent), Hartlepool (Indie) and North Tyneside (Labour).