During a conversation about why the Greens were the best vote to keep out the BNP at the European election next year I started to get sucked into a discussion on the glorious D'Hondt system that we use in these elections in the UK. It's difficult to do in a few words so I thought I'd go into a little more detail. I'll post on something more exciting later, I promise!
Anyway, let's look at how this bugger works because it isn't simple. For the voter things are pretty easy. Each region has a ballot paper and you vote for the party of your choice, broadly the more votes each party gets the more MEPs are elected from their list. But when it comes to working out exactly how many Euro MPs are elected it gets a bit more tricky. Wikipedia puts it like this;
Believe it or not that is as clear an explanation as you're likely to get, but let me put it another way anyway. You have a set number of seats per region and you elect each seat in turn. Every time you elect someone that party's "quotient" (which was originally the number of votes they got) is downgraded - first you halve the original vote, then you third it, then quarter it, etc. Then whichever party has the highest quotient gets the next place and their vote is downgraded until you've filled all the seats.
After all the votes have been tallied, successive quotients or 'averages' are calculated for each list. The formula for the quotient is , where:
- V is the total number of votes that list received; and
- s is the number of seats that party has been allocated so far (initially 0 for all parties in a list only ballot, but includes the number of seats already won where combined with a separate ballot, as happens in Wales and Scotland).
Whichever list has the highest quotient or average gets the next seat allocated, and their quotient is recalculated given their new seat total. The process is repeated until all seats have been allocated.
OK. Let's look at London last time to see it in practice. They were nine seats to fill and was the number of votes the main parties got;
I'm going to go through this seat by seat - bear with me. You can use the table below if it helps (numbers in bold have succeeded in getting someone elected).
- So the Tories came top they get seat number one and you half their (to 252,471).
- Labour now have the most they get second place and you half their vote (to 233,292).
- Lib Dems next and you half their vote (to 144,395).
- Now the Tories "quotient" is the highest and they get their second MEP and their quotient becomes one third of their original vote (or 168,314)... and so on...
|Tory||504,941 (1) ||252,471 (4) ||168,314 (7) ||126,235|
|Labour||466,584 (2) ||233,292 (5) ||155,528 (9) ||116,646|
|Lib Dem||288,790 (3)||144,395|
|UKIP||232,633 (6) ||116,317|
|Green||158,986 (8) |
Now, at the next election London will only have eight seats to play for, and UKIP and Respect will be entirely out of the running - massively increasing the potential for a BNP MEP (not withstanding their current hilarious difficulties). Which means, in regards to keeping the BNP out, it's all a battle for eighth place - the place that the Greens currently hold.
Now if the results for the major parties are similar to last time then Labour and the Tories need three votes to add one to their quotient in this range, the Lib Dems two and all the minor parties one. That means that voting Labour or Tory is one third as potent as voting Green (and voting Lib Dem just half).
This basic formula holds true in every region of England without exception, even for those areas where the Greens have not yet won a seat, it's still a battle for last place and one vote for a Green is the most mathematically powerful vote you can cast for that seat under D'Hondt. And they need to be because each BNP vote is also worth three times that of a Labour vote in June, which is a steep hill to fight against.
There is a real chance that the fascists could gain their first MEP at this coming Euro election and I think that's something we should try to prevent if we can. Ballot for ballot the best anti-fascist vote is a Green vote - which by happy coincidence also allows you to vote for peace, progress and a sustainable economy at the same time - that's a win / win situation if ever I heard one.