There’s an argument doing the rounds that, although the Brexit Party got the most seats and the most votes, actually the European Election results show Remain is more popular.
It is a contrived argument, a meme propagated by low-level influencers on Twitter that clawed its way into the mainstream mainly due to their desperate need to find some kind of twisted argument to support their position.
The “Remain Won” Argument…
The basic fact of the elections is this: Five months ago the Brexit Party did not exist. Two days ago they destroyed the competition in the European elections. That is a statement. That is the reality.
The twist on this reality is that, when you combine votes for different parties, the remain parties won more votes.
Business Insider had ridiculously slanted take on it, headlining:
Remain surge: Liberal Democrats and Greens make big gains in European elections
You have to read significantly more than half of that article before you realise that the Brexit party, unequivocally, had the best of the results.
Polly Toynbee went even more ludicrous with it in her article in today’s Guardian:
Remainers won these elections – and they’d win a second Brexit referendum
So how are the remain side supporting this odd position?
Well, the argument is that ALL “Remain parties” combined got more votes than all the “Leave parties”. To support this argument, you have to do some vote math. Some fairly contrived vote math. They have graphs:
In this first graph, they have decided to totally discount all the Labour and Conservative votes (and subsequently 25% of the total votes).
…and in this graph, they have arbitrally decided to include Labour as a Remain party, and the Conservatives as a Leave party, despite this being obviously a massive over-generalisation.
Why it doesn’t make sense
There are several huge holes in this line of reason, all fairly simple, all pretty obvious.
Firstly, and most obviously, there’s the simple fact that you don’t just combine votes from different parties with vaguely similar positions on one single issue. That has never been done before, because it’s just plain silly. It’s not how voting works, it’s not how complex issues work, it’s not how life works.
Even the people making the argument don’t truly believe it, not really.
Imagine if the Lib Dems, the hardest of hard remainers, had swept to victory as the Brexit party did. Imagine a Remain party had won the vast majority of the seats and votes, whilst Nigel Farage was making arguments that they should combine votes for the Tories, UKIP and Brexit parties.
Would the media be agreeing with him?
No, they’d be mocking him. And rightly so: That sort of equivocation is absurd.
Secondly, there’s the question of who actually voted. The fact is that EU nationals, living in the UK, can vote in European elections, but would not be eligible to vote in either national referenda, or general elections. So these results include many thousands of people who would not be able to vote in a second referendum and didn’t vote in the last one.
Third, there’s the fact these graphs conflate voting for a particular party with their position on Brexit. The idea that people voted entirely based on Brexit, and nothing else. That is clearly a massive oversimplification – clearly indicated by the BBC’s listing of Labour as a “Remain” party, and the Tories as “Leave”.
The reality is obviously much more complicated. It’s perfectly possible to vote Green because you’re an environmentalist but disagree with them about the EU.
Surveys show that, although Brexit was the main reason people voted for the Lib Dems and the Brexit Party (shocking), it didn’t crack the top three in Labour or Conservative votes, and was behind other issues in SNP and Green party votes.
People vote for more than one reason.
Fourth, there’s the turnout issue – the total turnout in the European elections was 17.2 million people, about 36%. Just about half the turnout for the Brexit referendum (72%). Extrapolating that we are a “remain nation”, as Toynbee argued, and as Vince Cable said on Channel 4 news, from 1/3 of the population is absurd.
"There is now a majority to stop Brexit and remain."
The Lib Dem leader Vince Cable says he does not accept "at all" that Nigel Farage's Brexit Party won the EU elections. pic.twitter.com/xRWUIh7MEQ
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) May 27, 2019
None of the arguments that “Remain won!” hold together at all. So why are they being made?
Well, mainly, because they need a reason to carry on pushing for a second referendum, a “People’s Vote”. By depicting these results as a “Remain surge”, they add fuel to that fire.
Now, for the sake of argument, let’s say they are successful. That the People’s Vote campaign secures their referendum:
Well, one question I have been asking for months (and have been unable to get a straight answer to) is what happens if Leave wins the second vote as well?
Well, this whole situation shows us a little snapshot of how the establishment will guarantee that does not happen: They will split the vote.
The argument being made for the graphs splitting the vote into Brexit/Remain/Tories+Labour is that it separates the Hard Brexit parties from the Soft Brexit parties. The No Deals, from the Deals. THAT is the template for next ballot. A three-prong choice – Remain, No Deal Brexit and Deal Brexit.
With this construction of the choice, Remain only needs to win 33% of the vote to win, and – just like this week – somehow parlay an actual minority into a victory.
This has been the point of the People’s Vote campaign since the beginning.
The truly funny thing in all of this is, even by their own contrived metric, the remainers’ argument makes no sense. Both the Tory party and Labour have promised to respect the referendum result, so assuming people did vote based solely on Brexit then the Tories and Labour ARE “Leave” parties.
That means Leave won 58% of the vote, and Remain got 40%.
So if the Remainers really want to argue it that way they can: The People’s Vote campaign wanted a second vote on Brexit, well they got one.
Brexit won. Again.