Euro elections 2014 – UKIP ‘wins’, Lib Dems crushed, BNP all but buried, but most pollsters red faced

The results are almost in for Great Britain, with just Scotland to report its final figures once the Western Isles have completed their count.

Round up

As most of the opinion polls over the last 10 days predicted, UKIP has won the largest share of the popular vote for the first time, adding 10 MEPs to its complement so far with another possible in Scotland.  The increase in UKIP’s vote from 2009 so far is 74%.  But back to this in a moment.

The Liberal Democrats have been utterly crushed with a vote share lower than the Greens and just one MEP of their previous 10 scraping back in the South East.  The Lib Dem vote was more than halved. Nick Clegg’s ‘Party of In’ strategy has completely failed and his future as leader is now surely in doubt ahead of the general election.

The most pleasing moment of the night was seeing the burial of the BNP as a political force. 764,000 voters from 2009 have deserted the party – most likely for UKIP and its anti immigration message – its two MEPs have been removed from office and its local organisation is in ruins. Then BNP is now a paper party.

Labour performed a little less well than predicted while the Conservatives performed a little better than expected. Neither will be happy with the outcome of the Euro poll, but neither will be panicking yet.  Domestic factors are at play and will increase in importance in the coming months. For both parties there is everything to play for.  Cameron’s position seems secure, but Labour ranks are breaking regarding Miliband and his team. This is personality politics writ large and in that race, Miliband has a big problem.

Opinion pollsters

But there is something of a wake up call this morning for most pollsters who published polls over the last 10 days.  Only one pollster, You Gov, came close to correctly projecting the vote shares.  Their methodology in their poll conducted between 20-21 May most accurately reflected the actual voting percentages within the usual margin of error:

You Gov / (Actual)

UKIP – 27 / (27.5)
Lab – 26 / (25.4)
Con – 22 / (23.9)
Lib – 9 / (6.8)

For UKIP, Survation (32), Opinium (32), TNS (31)  and ComRes (33) were way off the mark.  ICM was even further out having Labour winning with 29 and UKIP in second on 25.

A recent exchange on Twitter between me and the CEO of Survation, who aggressively defended his research and methodology when I argued their handling of non responders and undecideds was overstating UKIP’s likely support, seems to confirm my argument. That Survation research specifically concerned the Eastleigh parliamentary constituency, but as we saw in the local election results Survation’s adjusted findings of 32% for UKIP was nowhere close to borne out in the 15 seats contested, with the Lib Dems comfortably holding all their seats and gaining one from an independent, and the Conservatives holding their seats.

It is always possible that in the last few days before the elections UKIP’s support softened, but YouGov has been consistently the most accurate pollster and their polling seems to best reflect voter opinion.  The other pollsters have some thinking to do. Ascribing voting intentions to people who say they don’t know how they will vote in a forthcoming election, in the way Survation and others have been doing, might make for big headlines, but it is generating numbers that are wrong by more than the margin of error.

UKIP

The way people voted is very interesting indeed. It looks like reading into the Euro Election results as a guide to the general election in 2015 would be a hazardous thing to do.  We have known there is a substantial protest vote in Euro Elections and this seems to have been exhibited here too.

In the European poll UKIP has received 27.5% of the vote, dwarfing their previous share in 2009.  With Scotland to provide its finall tally, UKIP has increased its vote from 2,498,226 to more than 4,350,000, over 2 million more votes.  Almost certainly 750,000 of those have come from former BNP supporters, but that still means they have harvested another 1.2 million voters from the Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems and previous non voters.

Yet where council elections took place, UKIP took just 17% of the votes.  This suggests that where council elections were taking place, many people segmented their vote. When choosing their councillors they largely voted for their preferred party, but on the European ballot paper many were happy to stick it to the main parties to show their dissatisfaction. The conclusion that can be drawn is that as the Euro Election is meaningless many voters were happy to give their vote to UKIP – but cannot be relied upon to do the same at the general election.

Turnout

Although Nigel Farage predicted this election would see a record turnout, at 34.1%  it is slightly down from 2009 (34.4%), which itself was lower than the 38.2% in 2004.   In 1999 the turnout across the whole UK (which includes Northern Ireland) was just 23%. In respect of absolute numbers of voters he might yet be correct, as population increase has seen the size of the electorate grow. We will find out later.

Regardless, whereas about 7 in 20 eligible voters turned out this week and next year it is likely to be about 13 in every 20, there is an increasingly dogged section of the electorate, around one third, that simply will not participate in the political process. For all of UKIP’s proclaimed insurgency providing a voice for those who don’t feel represented, legitimacy of the system is increasingly in question.

General Election

The additional 6 in 20 voters that will turn out to vote in May 2015 are very unlikely to vote UKIP.  We know UKIP’s core voters were utterly motivated and turned out this week.  We also know UKIP were loaned votes to make a point to the other three main parties, so this is their high watermark.  While UKIP’s general election vote will be higher than 2010, their total number of votes will be less than this week.  This will mean their share of the vote and their vote concentration in areas where they appear strong this week, will be diluted. The recent You Gov nationwide polling for the general election has UKIP sitting around 13%, which seems to be an excellent reflection of what will come to pass.

Ahead of the general election we can expect to see more scrutiny of UKIP, but most probably a change of tack. Rather than focusing on the characters in the party, the other three parties will likely start applying pressure regarding the absence of coherent polices that the media will happily run with.  This has implications for any subsequent referendum as time and again we will hear that UKIP wants the UK to leave the EU, but has no plan about how this can be done cleanly or painlessly.

Conversely we can expect to see an onslaught against Ed Miliband as voters are asked to contemplate the idea of him being Prime Minister. It’s not an attractive vision and it has the capacity to drive more people towards the Conservatives.  If this begins to happen, Lord Ashcrofts polls in the marginal constituencies will start to see the gap between Labour and the Tories narrowing.  That is what watchers need to look out for.  If that happens, as it permeates the consciousness of those floating voters, we can expect to see a classic two party squeeze in 2015.  The Lib Dems will have retreated to their existing constituencies to try to retain them as part of this squeeze and their scope for causing upsets elsewhere has largely been neutralised.

Things are therefore all set for another two horse race where UKIP’s involvement will be limited to that of spoiler rather than contender.  The extent of the spoiling will depend on UKIP’s credibility under further scrutiny.  The next six months could tell us a great deal.

15 Responses to “Euro elections 2014 – UKIP ‘wins’, Lib Dems crushed, BNP all but buried, but most pollsters red faced”


  1. 1 TheBoilingFrog 26/05/2014 at 11:40 am

    “It is always possible that in the last few days before the elections UKIP’s support softened”

    Good piece, AM. Worth noting Mike Nattrass’ party (AIFE) got 1.49% of the vote, most of which undoubtedly would have gone to UKIP if the party wasn’t at the bottom of paper.

  2. 2 Autonomous Mind 26/05/2014 at 12:53 pm

    I think it’s important to remember that UKIP doesn’t speak for all ‘outers’. There are many people who want out who do not like UKIP and would support an alternative.

  3. 3 JabbaTheCat 26/05/2014 at 1:01 pm

    A valid question is how many Ukip MEPs will be left next year?

  4. 4 Autonomous Mind 26/05/2014 at 1:38 pm

    Well, if we look at William Dartmouth, one wonders if he will be able to keep the UKIP whip.

    He has now declared he will oppose the wind farm on his ‘former’ land that is now owned by a ‘relative’. But the timelines suggest he was the owner who approached the Valley Wind Co-operative to invite a tender for the project before he gave the land to his relative!

    Valley Wind have gone silent and Dartmouth is refusing to answer specific questions about the tender and timings. Having apparently invited the tender for the wind farm then shifted the land to a relative, the fact he now supposedly opposes the development makes the whole thing ridiculous.

    One wonders how long Valley Wind will stay silent for in the face of Dartmouth’s objection and how UKIP can possibly keep him on when they realise he seems to have tried to pull a fast one in direct contravention of party policy.

  5. 5 cosmic 26/05/2014 at 2:00 pm

    “the other three parties will likely start applying pressure regarding the absence of coherent polices that the media will happily run with. This has implications for any subsequent referendum as time and again we will hear that UKIP wants the UK to leave the EU, but has no plan about how this can be done cleanly or painlessly.”

    Dunno. If you see them as the New LibDems, then having no coherent policies didn’t do them any harm until they made the mistake of participating in government and were exposed. I used to think that being the outsiders meant UKIP had to have the better arguments and had to have thought them through.

    Apart from the LDs, who had a clear line on the EU but have been punished for it, none of the parties have an honest, clear and worked out policy on the EU, they just have directions; UKIP want out, Labour seem to want in but can generally avoid the subject, the Tories want in but find it convenient to pretend they don’t really like it and can change it.

  6. 6 TheBoilingFrog 26/05/2014 at 2:39 pm

    @Cosmic The difference is the Lib Dems are part of the establishment, therefore no one had any incentive to look too deeply. UKIP on the hand is a threat, therefore the establishment wants to crush it…and they will give it a damn good go.

  7. 7 cosmic 26/05/2014 at 3:06 pm

    @TBF,

    They’re a political party and their ideas and policies should be scrutinised and examined like those of any other political party – except generally, we seem to have moved away from that and to personality politics with everything trivialised and presented in terms of personalities. It also seems to have become about immaculated images and never saying the wrong thing, but usually saying nothing much at all.

    Certainly, there was a campaign of personal vilification which backfired, especially in view of the fact that many of the mud-slingers did not have clean hands themselves. It was also crude, heavy-handed and seen to be unfair.

    The problem UKIP presents is that they raise questions, immigration green energy, the EU, etc, which the establishment doesn’t want to acknowledge are valid questions and has spent a lot of effort discouraging. Attacking UKIP on these things means accepting that these are questions which can be asked and need better answers than a bit of hand-waving and a lot of evasion. So if UKIP don’t have very good answers, they have to explain why not and why what they are doing and have done is better – the very thing they’ve tried so desperately to avoid.

    As Richard North said a day or two back, UKIP are holding up a mirror.

    I don’t disagree that UKIP really ought to have a worked out exit strategy beyond the slogans and more sophisticated ideas on the question of immigration.

  8. 8 tallbloke 27/05/2014 at 2:04 pm

    AM: “Yet where council elections took place, UKIP took just 17% of the votes.”

    The 17% figure is the UKIP vote spread across all the contested seats, many of which didn’t have a UKIP candidate. The figure for the UKIP share of the vote where it did contest seats was around 21% I think.

  9. 9 Autonomous Mind 27/05/2014 at 2:41 pm

    In years gone by I frequently argued with Lib Dems that their party could not be considered a national political force because of the number of wards where they could not put up a candidate. The same seems to true of UKIP. Now that may or may not change, but it does reflect a problem your party needs to resolve. An aspiring party should at least be putting up paper candidates, especially when support is turning out for the Euro elections.

  10. 10 tallbloke 27/05/2014 at 2:53 pm

    Membership now up to 40,000. Number of seats contested will be up at the 2015GE. More new branches and constituency associations will be springing up between now and then.

  11. 11 Autonomous Mind 27/05/2014 at 3:04 pm

    I’m just making the point there was a missed opportunity.

    What doesn’t bode well is the capacity of undesirables ‘slipping through the net’. If the party couldn’t cope with screening out people with racist or discriminatory views before a sudden upsurge in membership, its ability to do so now won’t be improved much.

    I’m writing a post later explaining my position vis-a-vis UKIP. I’m not even sure it is worth doing, but if you had been on the receiving end of the extremely unpleasant and abusive emails and comments I have, you would probably understand why I feel the need to do so.

  12. 12 tallbloke 27/05/2014 at 3:20 pm

    The LibLabCon have clearly thrown a lot of money at trawling through the facebook ramblings of thousands of UKIP candidates, and they’ve found a handful of genuinely appalling cases. We’re grateful, as we didn’t have the resources to do it. Now that we have 24 MEP salary levies the situation will be improved and vetting will be rigorous for the GE.

  13. 13 Autonomous Mind 27/05/2014 at 4:07 pm

    I admire your faith, but I think you will find that the money in question will be spent elsewhere.

  14. 14 tallbloke 27/05/2014 at 4:24 pm

    You are of course entitled to your own baseless conjectures.

  15. 15 Autonomous Mind 27/05/2014 at 8:11 pm

    You couldn’t keep it reasonable or pleasant could you? Even if you won’t I’ll try to remain polite.

    History shows how the party uses the money. Ask the NEC their priorities and see if a single member calls for the money to be used on vetting candidates.


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