Well done the LibDems and the Greens in the local elections! The outstanding results they achieved makes it all the more disappointing that there is no plan for pro-Remain parties to work together at the European elections on May 23.
Thank you for your email about the possibility of an electoral alliance of Remain parties in the forthcoming European Parliament election.
As someone who strongly believes that the UK’s future would be brighter, fairer and greener if we remained in the EU, and having been a co-founder of the cross-party campaign for a People’s Vote with the option to remain, I very much understand your desire to see the pro-Remain parties working together to maximise the pro-Remain vote in the European Parliament (EP) election. Unfortunately, however, the particular form of proportional representation that the UK uses for EP elections (the d’Hondt system) presents very significant practical barriers to the formation of a formal or even an informal electoral alliance.
In terms of a formal electoral alliance – that is, with the alliance’s name and logo appearing on the ballot paper – such an alliance would need to be approved and registered by the Electoral Commission. The deadline for seeking such approval by, and registration with, the Electoral Commission was in early February, long before the EU Council meeting on 10 April which granted the Article 50 extension to 31 October that makes it possible to hold the EP election on 23 May.
As for an informal arrangement – that is, with candidates standing under the banner of their own party, but some parties standing down in each region to give one pro-Remain party a free-run – the d’Hondt system, and in particular the division of the UK into electoral regions of varying size, makes it very difficult to predict with any certainty which party is best placed to maximise the benefit of being given a free-run in each region.
Furthermore, it is not at all clear how such an informal alliance could have ensured compliance with the Electoral Commission’s rules on campaign spending (and there would be little point parties standing their candidates down to give another party a free-run, unless they then campaigned jointly for that party’s candidates). These practical and legal difficulties would have made any negotiations between the various parties extremely complex. What’s more, although in principle I was open to exploring the possibility of working together, it quickly became clear that Change UK were unwilling to consider such an informal arrangement. And, contrary to some media reports, the Liberal Democrats did not make any approach to the Green Party on this issue.
In short, as attractive as an electoral alliance might have been, it was simply not a viable option (and the deadline for registering candidates has now passed).
I realise that this is disappointing, but can assure you that the Green Party, the Party’s excellent MEP candidates and I will all be campaigning hard over the next four weeks to maximise the pro-Remain vote and resist the opportunistic populism of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party and the far-right extremism of UKIP. The Greens are well placed to build on the strong track record of our existing three MEPs on delivering not just a People’s Vote, but bold action on climate change too. We understand why many people voted for Leave in June 2016: the status quo is intolerable and we are pushing for the reforms necessary in both the UK and the EU to make a transition away from the current system – one which fails us all so badly, and hits the most vulnerable hardest.
We have to redefine what success looks like in this EP election, and ensuring a majority of pro-Remain votes on 23 May is key – whether that translates into more MEPs, or not. If more than 50% of the voting public express a preference for Remain candidates, that massively strengthens the case for a People’s Vote, whereas alliances could in fact suppress the pro-Remain numbers (if traditional voters of one party felt unable to support a candidate from a different one, because although they agree on Remain, they have almost nothing else in common at all). Alliances might also not result in a pro-Remain MEP majority and strategically would not move us any closer to a ratification referendum. Even if the Brexit Party secures a majority of MEP seats, that will count for much less if the country has voted Remain overall and the pressure for a People’s Vote really builds.
I hope that makes my position clear. I understand how worried and concerned you are, and hope that you will use your vote on 23 May to send a strong clear message in support of Remain.