Wednesday, June 10, 2009

How much do the euro elections matter?

For the best analysis of last week's turbulent politics, I refer you to Hopi Sen's excellent article How Not to Plot. He says it all.

But there is a question that hasn't been addressed. How important are the euro-elections anyway? It's fashionable to claim that because the Tories got 27.7% and UKIP got 16.5% and "of course" UKIP people will vote Tory in a general election, the Tories are on course for a general election share of 44.2%.

But this overlooks turnout, which was an abysmal 34%. What happens when turnout rises to general election levels? The best way to gauge this is to see what happened between the euro elections of 2004 and the general election of 2005.

Looking back to the 2004 european elections, the Tory and UKIP results were not that different to now. Here's how the results panned out.

Party Votes %
Conservative 4,397,090 26.7
Labour 3,718,683 22.6
UKIP 2,650,768 16.1
LibDem 2,452,327 14.9
Green 1,033,093 6.3
BNP 808,200 4.9
Respect 252,252 1.5
SNP 231,505 1.4
Plaid Cymru 159,888 1.0

The Tories plus UKIP are 42.8%. And in number of votes Tories plus UKIP total 7,047,858.

Now look what happens in the 2005 general election:

Party Votes %
Labour 9,562,122 35.3
Conservative 8,772,598 32.3
LibDem 5,981,874 22.1
UKIP 603,298 2.2
SNP 412,267 1.5
Green 257,758 1.0
BNP 192,746 0.7
Plaid cymru 174,838 0.6
Respect 68,094 0.3%

The Conservatives plus UKIP are now 9,375896 (2,328,038 up from their 2004 euro election showing). But Labour puts on a whopping 5,843,439 votes in the 2005 general election compared to the 2004 euro elections.

The message from the above that the Tory+UKIP vote is a reliable indicator of what they will get in the general election - their supporters turn out to the ballot box come rain or shine for all manner of elections. They will put on a bit in the general election, but only marginally. But look at the Labour voters - they just don't bother to vote in non-general elections at the best of times. And in 2004, some were probably abstaining because of Iraq. But they came out in the general election.

Now to the 2009 euro elections. the results were as follows:

Party Votes %
Conservative 4,198,394 27.7%
UKIP 2,498,226 16.5%
Labour 2,381,760 15.7%
LibDem 2,080,613 13.7%
Green 1,223,303 8.6%
BNP 943,598 6.2%
SNP 321,007 2.1%
Plaid Cymru 126,702 0.8%

In terms of numbers of votes, everyone is a bit down from the 2004 euro elections, apart from the Greens and the BNP. But Labour's vote is sharply down. It hasn't "gone" to anyone. They've just stayed at home.

The challenge for the general election is in getting them to come out and vote. All the plots etc have probably put them off big time. But now that the plots are over, if the party can focus on the idea that the next election is a make or break election, which is going to be close, with clear differences between Labour and the Tories, then, well, it's not over.

It's all about getting out the vote. The most disturbing article to be written in recent days was the one penned by John Prescott where he alleged that certain members of the government were not even trying to win. He's right to be concerned. If that attitude is replicated in the general election, we will lose badly. If the govt pulls up it's socks and starts to fight, that needn't be the case.


Rich Green said...

In Southampton, the Tory & UKIP vote stayed almost entirely static. The greens gained about 1500, and both Labour & the Lib Dems lost over 3000 each. I attribute the Lib Dem drop to many of those voters actually being Labour voters who were protesting over the Iraq war last time. But however you cut it, the drop in the left-wing vote didn't go anywhere else- not all to the greens, and certainly not to the Tories. They just didn't vote.

So the obvious lesson is for Labour to make sure we get our vote out come the general. I also think there's another less obvious lesson though. Someone staying at home and not voting Labour in the euros could, in some circumstances, be the first step to them thinking 'sod it' and voting tory in the General. So while boosting turnout is the main lesson of these elections, we've also got to be hammering home the dividing lines and the Tory threat too.

DevonChap said...

The question is Snowflake, will your former supporters come out to vote for 5 more years of Gordon when it is a choice between Tory cuts and Labour cuts?

You need good party organisation to get out the vote and the recent local elections have shown Labour is currently nothing in the South outside of London. Local elections matters since a rule of thumb is that 1 councillor equals 2 activists. Win a councillor and you gain on average two activists, lose a councillor and you lose 2. Labour have lost 291 councillors, so that is nearly 600 lost activists. That is a lot.

Now Labour's vote was down by 1,336,923 compared to the last Euros, the Tories and UKIP combined was down only by 351,238. That is a million voters you have lost compared to the previous Euros. They must be really browned off.

Quietzapple said...

“The govt (must) pull up it's socks and start to fight.”

There is much truth in what you write Snowflake.

Recent polls show Cameron with less than 40% on the usual question How would you vote if there was a General Election tomorrow?

No clear blue water, he is widely viewed as tricky, a Pinnochio on the make.

People are not turning to Cameron and his party.

In the 2004 Euro election Howard’s leadership attracted the lowest share of the vote of any Tory leader since 1832. (wiki).

Cameron has put 0.8% in vote share, and, as you point out, lost many real voters despite his typically dishonest handling of the crisis.

There is no doubt that the MPs' Expenses / Allowances row has disproportionately disadvantaged Labour because:

1) As Harriet Harman says people expect better of Labour, the Tories are known to be crooks and swindlers (my phraseology)

2) The Dully Tele threw their mud, some of it based on untruths (The stolen info was unredacted) at Labour first, and the first mud was most noticed.

3) People still fondly imagine that Labour was wholly responsible for the rules on expenses, while in truth such matters have ordinarily been cross party, with MPs usually behaving like the independents many say they want them to be.

Between the 2004 Euro Election and the 2005 Poll Tony Blair, who was much abused and libeled by the billionaire press and their lackeys, was the focus of much public concern. But people still trusted him, and his outgoing approval rating was high compared to most other outgoing PMs, partly because of our handling of the economy.

The biggest factor in almost all elections is the economy, basic well being.

The Tories made a little headway in 2005 as compared to the 2001 election largely by virtue of what might be called the “Buggins” effect. People tire of the same old same old . . . and look to alternatives, whether capable like Brown, or just newer faces like some of the others, or a party whose sole principle is the greed of the rich like the Tories.

It was not solely that Labour voters stopped indoors for the 2004 Euros and turned out for 2005 because that is what they do, there was a renewal of a sort, albeit it was of confidence in Labour and Blair, few can have imagined Tony Blair would continue indefinitely.
It was because he could not see a further victory that I believe Tony Blair went when he did, tiredness also a factor.

The way ahead to regain these voters - some of whom will have protested by voting for other parties as well as stopping home - is partly through the exigencies of time, the expenses row will come to be more subdued, and Labour’s roles less notably unpopular when compared to the other parties.

In a similar way the pillory of Gordon Brown - the lies and abuses and libels - will have a downside for those who engage in such - people like Iain Dale and Paul Staines, papers like The Flail and Dully Tele will come to be less well trusted, the BBC will have to look at its almost unquestioning support for such people. The Guardinid will need to cease campaigning for regime change if it wishes to retain its pre-eminent position.

Policies for the Economy and Constitutional Reform are important, especially those which can be brought in before the next election. PR is an anorak’s dream, it belongs in elections to the Lords, and that is a way ahead for those bent on being anoraks, and also those who favour democracy.

But most critically Labour MPs and other members must unite behind Gordon Brown. Not just behind the same version of Lords reform (if that is possible, for views will vary), but in defence of our basic representative democracy, with well supported leaders, and common programmes of policy. The way we go about things is broadly the best to be found, and amid the plans to allow recall MPs who stray too far & etc, we need to reassert the core of our democracy.

“The govt (must) pull up it's socks and start to fight.”

That is the principal way to calm and regain the core voters.

DevonChap said...

Is there anything sadder than a neglected blog? This time last year you wee posting 2-3 times a week. Now a whole month has gone by without an update.

What's wrong? Surely there have been enough statistics to talk about (oh forgot, they don't show Gordon Brown to be an economic genuius). Are you disenchanted? The frequency of your blog posts appears to have a direct corrolation to the health of the economy and the Labour Party. No posts for a month suggests things are really black. Don't say Labour's cheerleader is down!

Go on, write about how wonderful Sarah Brown is at blooging the G8. I'm sure that will perk you up.

DevonChap said...

2 months now and no new posts. You really have lost the faith. Shame, I was looking forward to you explaining how France and Germnay growing at 0.3% in Q2 and the UK economy declining by 0.8% showed we were best placed to deal with the recession.

I'm half expecting this blog to reopen in January with you declaring you are voting Tory.

Quietzapple said...

Poor Devon Chap.

Does he not realise that he can email you via the Blogger site?