Let’s Tag with TIG for Europe

9 Apr

EU electionsLiberals, pro-Europeans and centrists have had a bleak few years. At the start of 2019 I would have given my right arm for the chance to fight the May European elections still as a member of the EU. These elections offer a fantastic opportunity to get a large group of MEPs elected on a ticket of holding a People’s Vote to Remain in, and then reform, the EU. And yet…

For The Independent Group (aka Change UK but I prefer TIGgers) the Euro elections are an unexpected make or break opportunity. Only now in the process of becoming a party, TIG would struggle to fight a general election in the absence of local organisation. But a national proportional representation election, on an issue that is their main raison d’etre, is a gift. It could allow TIG to show they are a viable alternative to the two awful main parties.

As a Lib Dem, I’m an enthusiast about the potential for TIG to help change politics for the better. But I’m convinced we can only do this in partnership. I had hoped we would have the luxury of time to work this out and build an alliance. But we don’t. The deadline to nominate party lists for the EU elections is 24 April – only two weeks away.

The proportional electoral system, with its large regional constituencies, is helpful to medium-sized parties, but not to small ones. Sadly in 2014 (don’t mention the coalition) the Lib Dems were a small party and only got one MEP elected (see map above). In previous Euro elections the medium-sized Lib Dems got 10+ MEPs representing most regions.

In some smaller regions (e.g. Wales, North East), a party needs more than 15% of the vote to get any MEPs. In some larger regions (e.g. South East, London), 10% may be enough.

The opinion polls suggest that if the Lib Dems and TIG put up separate lists, we might hope to get around 10% each (in pro-Remain areas at least). That might be enough to get two or three MEPs a piece across the country. But we are likely to both miss out in some, perhaps most, regions if we compete and split the vote. By contrast, a combined list in each region – or a pact to support each other’s lists in different regions (e.g. TIG stand in Wales, Lib Dems stand in the South West) – is far more likely to yield the 15%+  vote needed in some parts of the country.

And don’t forget it’s UKIP, or Farage’s new Brexit party, that we might be competing with to get each extra seat in the European Parliament. If the Eurosceptic vote manages to coalesce around one of these parties, and the pro-Remain forces are split, this could make a big difference in reducing the number of pro-European MEPs returned.

Nobody pretends this is easy. But the stakes couldn’t be higher. These elections could be critical in building momentum for an Exit from Brexit. And a stepping stone to breaking the two party system that has put us in this mess. Surely TIGgers and the Lib Dems have enough in common to tag together for Europe?


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