Tuesday, April 23, 2019

No, Mark Ruskell, it's not possible to vote "tactically" in the Euro elections to stop UKIP or the Brexit Party

In my naivety, I had thought that the difference between the Holyrood and European Parliament voting systems would mean that I wouldn't have to spend any time over the next few weeks debunking the familiar claims that everything would be right with the world if only SNP supporters would "vote tactically" for the Greens or other radical left parties.  I assumed that a simple system in which every elector just casts a single vote for a single party, and in which seats are allocated in proportion to the share of the vote each party receives, would encourage the Greens to just concentrate on making the positive case for a Green MEP to be elected.  But nope, it seems they just can't help themselves.  Here is what Green parliamentarian Mark Ruskell had to say on Twitter a few hours ago -

"Having a chat with a couple of SNP voters today, had to remind them of the disastrous ‘get Tasmina as our third MEP’ campaign was at the last Euros, just let UKIP in through the backdoor. Polling shows Greens are front runners to take the seat off UKIP and keep Farage out."

That tweet is so spectacularly dishonest on multiple counts that it's difficult to know where to start.  First of all, it's true that the Greens made an extremely contrived pitch in 2014 that there would be a better chance of preventing UKIP taking a seat if SNP supporters switched tactically to the Greens.  The idea was that the SNP were 'guaranteed' to win two seats, and that thereafter the D'Hondt calculation would divide the SNP vote by three, meaning that excess votes would be wasted on the SNP, leaving the Greens as the only progressive party that could stop UKIP grabbing the final seat.  But the snag for Mr Ruskell is that this claim was not, as he implies, borne out by the eventual result.  Quite the reverse, in fact.  The D'Hondt calculation for the final seat was as follows...

UKIP 140,534
SNP 129,834
Labour 116,073
Conservatives 115,665
Greens 108,305
Liberal Democrats 95,319

Now, of course, the Greens would argue that the fact they were in fifth place for the final seat is somewhat misleading, because the numbers for the parties above them were (with the exception of UKIP) affected by D'Hondt, and that what you therefore need to do is look at the absolute number of extra votes each party would have needed to pip UKIP for the last seat.  But even if you look at it that way, the SNP would have needed 32,100 extra votes, and the Greens would have needed 32,230.  So the SNP were undoubtedly closer on any measure, and if we were being cheeky we could even claim that this proves Green supporters were to blame for letting in David Coburn because they failed to tactically vote SNP.  In reality, that would be very silly, because under this voting system it's almost impossible to know which way to vote if you want to cast a tactical, negative vote against a particular party.  The only way in which it might be possible would be if you knew in advance, and in precise detail, how everyone else is going to vote - and you can't know that, because opinion polls simply don't offer that extreme level of accuracy.  (Some would argue that they don't even offer a basic level of accuracy.)

There's also a rather amusing contradiction between the logic of the Greens' pitch for tactical votes in the European election, and the logic of their pitch for tactical votes in Holyrood elections.  As you might recall, I've always conceded the point that the Greens are technically correct that it would be possible to reliably "hack" the Holyrood system and get extra pro-independence MSPs, but only if the tactical voting on the list is extraordinarily widespread.  Much more likely is that it would be small in scale, and at that sort of level it would be much more likely to backfire, and could even up reducing the number of pro-indy MSPs.  The response I usually hear to that reality-check is: "You're thinking too small, James!  With the power of the Yes movement ANYTHING is possible!"  And yet implicit in the call for tactical votes in the Euro elections is that you don't actually need to worry about anything more than a very small number of your fellow SNP supporters doing it.  If you did need to worry about that, you wouldn't be remotely tempted, because you'd know that if the tactical voting drive was too 'successful' and if every SNP supporter 'lent' their 'excess' vote to the Greens, there wouldn't be two guaranteed seats for the SNP.  There would in fact be zero seats for the SNP.  In Euro elections, you can't use one vote for your favourite party and then use another vote tactically.  We all just have one vote, and if the SNP don't get enough of those, they won't win any seats at all.  Simple as that.

To turn to Mr Ruskell's claim that "polling shows Greens are front runners to take the seat off UKIP and keep Farage out", there is no truth in that whatsoever.  Thus far there haven't even been any full-scale Scottish polls for the Euro elections.  All we have are a few Scottish subsamples from GB polls, and they simply don't offer any comfort to the notion that the Greens will be involved in a direct fight with either UKIP or the Brexit Party for the final seat.  For example, of the three YouGov subsamples to date, one has suggested that both the Greens and the anti-Europe parties will miss out on a Scottish seat, one has suggested that both the Greens and the Brexit Party will take a seat, and only one has suggested that the Greens will take a seat and the anti-Europe parties will fall short.  Even in the latter example, the Greens were not projected to be the ones responsible for Farage's failure - in fact, the final seat was effectively a scrap between the SNP and the Tories, with the SNP marginally coming out on top.  So maybe the clarion call should be "Green supporters must vote tactically for the SNP to stop the Tories!"

A broader point is that there may be circumstances in which it's not arithmetically possible for any party to stop Farage.  In a proportional representation system, if the Brexit Party get a big enough share of the vote, they'll be awarded a seat, no matter how the votes are shared out between the other parties.  That being the case, it's much wiser to focus on which party you want to win a seat, and not which party you want to fail.

So the answer to the question "which party should independence supporters vote for in the European election?" is SNP if you prefer the SNP, and Green if you prefer the Greens.  If you're not that bothered between the two parties, my own personal opinion is that you'd make a bigger statement about independence by voting SNP.  Votes for the Greens will probably be interpreted in London media and political circles as environmentalist and left-wing votes, and not primarily as votes for independence.

34 comments:

  1. You neatly point out how the Greens are frequently disingenuous and basically not to be trusted.

    I have voted for them in the past but now don't, and that's the reason why.

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  2. Most Europeans will not vote in the elections. I am British and will not vote for some obscure middle class university graduate. Do not vote and support the Yellow Vests.

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    1. I really hope as many brexiters as possible don't vote.

      Remain will win #EUref2 in Scotland with an epic victory if that happens.

      Brexit would need to be completely cancelled for Scotland.

      As a 'Scotland only' vote, it wouldn't matter what the rest of the UK voted either!

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    2. How does not voting support the Yellow Vests?

      Also Alyn Smith is hardly some obscure middle class university graduate - he's probably gets more airtime than the current leader of UKIP or the whole of the LibDems at the moment

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    3. Cordelia isn't going to vote. Voting in any way, shape or form is a betrayal of democracy. Better to simply obey our overlords and accept their wishes, or something.

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    4. Are we pro or anti the Yellow Vests? I forget.

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    5. Cordelia doesn't know. It's waiting for instructions from Green Ink HQ.

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    6. Clodagh Rodgers' Garden ShedApril 23, 2019 at 5:09 PM

      Cordelia's vests are yellow but that's because she skimps on the Fairy Non-bio.

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    7. I beg to differ. Cordelia gets plenty of use out of Fairy Non-bio; it serves as an excellent chaser for the Domestos.

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    8. Responding to Mr Clark : we support everyone's right to wear whatever color vest..or any other clothing!! It's our policy. On the floor of legislative Chambers , however, I will not be supporting their motions. I just don't look good in yellow! For clarification: this post is mocking all our politicians and 99% of their supporters.

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    9. Its the yellow pests like the jocknatsist natsiboy Groundskeeper Willie Clown and his chums we need to throw out. Let's end natsi rule and restore our freedom and liberty.

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    10. Tiffanetta Spice-GrindlayApril 23, 2019 at 8:56 PM

      Hullo, Unknown Cordelia at 8:39 PM. What's your secret? How do you get that guttered that early? Do you start in the morning or just restrict yourself to pints of Carlsberg Special/Vodka/Buckfast cocktails?

      Is that what you supply Theresa May with too?

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    11. We used to hide in Clodagh Rodger's Garden Shed when we were playing hide n seek. Haven't done it for a couple of years since I retired. Or maybe it was Dominic Strauss Kahn's garage. I can't remember. Nurse, what's my name? Where am I? Is Bertie here too?

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  3. Excellent analysis. Vote SNP.

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    1. Seems a reasonably well thought out tactic.

      On the other hand we could back Murdo Frazer as here:

      https://www.thenational.scot/news/17590263.murdo-tells-unionists-to-back-federalism-or-lose-to-irresistable-indy/

      Perhaps not?

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  4. That the Greens continue doing this in elections is why many are no longer voting for them, it's counter productive especially as you have shown they never reply when challenged!

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  5. Don't worry paddy harvey will be along to call everybody a wanker soon. That'll boost the green vote.

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  6. To refute this argument, make and keep an up-to-date prediction for Scotland on your phone with this online tool:

    https://icon.cat/util/elections

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  7. Thanks for this article James. As an environmentalist supporting the old ecology party at one time (SNP now) I find it sad to see the Greens (which I like) stoop to Liberal Democrat tactics. this makes them less attractive to voters and something they should desist.

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  8. Sometimes I think things are too complicated for me so I just vote as I always do and vote SNP let Scots run Scotland.I'll soon be 67 and can say I have never voted for any other party or candidate than the SNP candidate.It makes sense to me that the best way forward for all countries is to run your own affairs and not accept "pocket money" from your next door neighbour for them to look after your wages.

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    1. You are saying what the Scottish Nat sis say about Labour. Vote for a monkey and you get one.

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    2. Cordelia misses the less complex times when it would vote for a red balloon on a stick. The anger and Domestos habit stem from being made to think.

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  9. Ruskel is being disingenuous. It is no surprise.

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  10. Anonymous. It is Persil non bio.

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    1. I'll take it with ice, lemon and seven up. They don't call me Sophisticated Suzy for nothing. And make it a double. I feel like a bumpy night.

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  11. I'll be casting my vote for either UKIP or the brexit party. True independence is not compatible with EU membership at this point.

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    1. By "true independence", do you mean adopting a Juche-style approach to the rest of the world?

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    2. WTO is not independence. That would mean e.g. Argentina making British laws.

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  12. For long I have felt that the environment is the big issue, and once independence is delivered my vote would go to the Greens. Alas, recent astonishing behaviour by Harvie, Wightman and now Ruskell have blown this plan out of the water. I'm sure I'm not alone in this. The Greens are alienating a constituency which is largely sympathetic to them, if not yet voting for them.

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  13. Excellent news. I'm very pleased to hear this. We'll just quietly make our exit then.

    https://twitter.com/thetimesscot/status/1120936633027706880

    Westminster has “bigger things to deal with” than Scottish independence, the prime minister’s office has said as Nicola Sturgeon prepares to outline her plans for a second referendum

    Sorry GWC; as I've said before, they don't give a shit about you. England's brexit matters far more to the English than the union with Scotland and N. Ireland.

    #backstop

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  14. The Greens telling lies. Shocked I am to discover this. They voted for the tram which has resulted in the destruction of Edinburgh. Well done them.

    They also support mass immigration. Which is the 2nd biggest cause of environmental destruction behind human overpopulation.

    Moving people from countries with lower per capita consumption to countries with higher per capita consumption just increases consumption. A bigger gang of self-serving hypocritical mongos there does not exist outside of the labour party.

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  15. On the topic of voting.

    Why does the Rev S Campbell insist that we can't hold a referendum without a section 30 order? The man is autistically committed to facts above everything yet he insists that a plebiscite held using the legal powers of Parliament would be blocked by local authorities. In which case they would clearly be acting illegally as well as anti-democratically, and result in the removal of any councillor and official guilty of such blatant criminality. Makes no sense from here.

    Also any threat of a yoon boycott making the vote meaningless is nonsense. It's been one of the foundations of democracy that if you don't vote then you don't get to moan about the result. Let them stay at home and when we have a 99% Yes they can cry into their tea-towels while compoisoning their green ink emails to the papers. Be too late by then as we will have confirmation that the people have expressed their desire to end london rule.



    ReplyDelete
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    1. Another foundation of democracy is you accept the result of the ballot box.

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    2. Cordelia despises democracy.

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