Because I spend a lot of my time convincing people that voting is worthwhile, I should begin by stating why I think voting today is important. Although people tend to treat it as an insignificant, the European Parliament has a lot more power than people tend to consider. Also, while it’s done under the worst of all PR systems extant, the rather wretched closed list, the Euro elections are still proportional, so every vote really does count. If you do not want your parliament filled with people you disagree with, best get out there today and have your say.
Having said that, it needs to be stressed before the media tells you tomorrow or the day after that because UKIP came first, or second or third, or because Labour came first, or third (or even if the Tories win) this tells us who will win in 2015, I need to stress that the results of these elections will not tell us anything at all about who will win the next general election. Or even whether or not any one party will win at all. Because people’s voting patterns in Euro elections are wildly different to those in any other that go on in the UK.
This is partly the result of turnout. So few people actually vote in the European elections in this country (and the one today will probably be a new record low), that something called differential turnout comes into play. What this boils down to is the people who are angry at the world, who want to send a “message” to the government, they turn up and vote. Most normal people, unless there is a local election going on at the time, choose to sit it out. I’ve simplified this massively, but that’s the essence. This is the reason the BNP have managed to get MEPs in the past (I’m using “past” rather hopefully, but it does look rather likely we will not be seeing any British National Party representation in Brussels after today).
But people think very differently when it comes to general elections. They come to the polling station to elect the government. So they are much more cautious with their vote. How they voted in the Euro elections will have very little bearing, outside of the party members and other hardcores, to the way people cast their ballots come May 7, 2015.
However, this is very unlikely to be the way it is reported in the political press. If Labour don’t come first, there will be all sorts of articles about whether or not Miliband is finished as a possible Prime Minister. If the Tories come third, an endless amount of words will be spent telling the nation why the Conservatives will not be in power in twelve months’ time. If UKIP win, we’ll hear all about how they are going to breakthrough and get a swathe of seats in 2015, perhaps even form a coalition with the Tories in a hung parliament.
But in actual fact, the result today will tell us none of these things. Labour could come third today and still win the general election next May. The Tories could come third and do the same. UKIP could win and get less vote share than in 2010 come 2015 (which was 3%, by the way. I should add here that they almost certainly won’t do this badly).
Having now said all this, I return to what I said at the top. Today decides who represents Britain in the European Parliament – that’s important, therefore today’s poll is important. Whomever you support, get out there and vote, people. Even though it won’t make any difference to the poll next year that decides who runs the country.