Pollwatch European Election Special: Tories braced for heavy defeat
by Henry Cowling, Head of Syndicated Research
  • Conservatives look set to come fourth (at best) as latest Savanta ComRes polling puts them neck and neck with the Green Party on only 9% of the vote.
  • The Brexit Party polls highest again, and even higher than last week’s Savanta ComRes poll, at 31%.
  • Labour look set to be the second largest party on 23% of the vote but this may come under pressure.
  • Lib Dems also set to make considerable gains, currently on 16% and faring best among those parties officially calling for a second referendum. Change UK barely registers at 4%.
  • More than half (54%) of British adults say that they are very certain to vote, suggesting voter turnout could be higher than recent averages in the mid-30s.

On Thursday, the UK elects 73 MEPs to represent them in the European Parliament (or possibly not, in the unlikely event that Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement passes next month).

Never has a national election looked set to produce such a comprehensive shake-up of the composition of the institution in question. It seems rather ironic that the party with ‘change’ in its name will almost certainly end up with no representation at all, while the Brexit Party, led by a politician whose party came top in 2014, looks set to win comprehensively.

Poised to win the most MEPs, and having seen its support base grow to over 100,000 in just two weeks, the Brexit Party is certainly the one to watch and not just in the European elections…

A big win will give the Brexit Party a legitimacy beyond the level UKIP ever enjoyed. An early demand will be to include its MEPs in the UK Brexit negotiations – a view which more than six in ten voters who expressed a view (in the latest Savanta ComRes poll for the Sunday Mirror/Sunday Express) would support if the Brexit Party win on Thursday.

A commanding lead will also give the Brexit Party’s confidence an important boost ahead of the Peterborough by-election on 6 June.

Indeed, for Nigel Farage the main prize is not getting his MEPs into the European Parliament but rather to break the two-party stranglehold on British politics.

He is tapping into strong public sentiments: in the same poll, more than half the public agreed that the Brexit Party should stand in the next Westminster election, whatever the result of Brexit. Moreover, Farage’s call for replacing First Past the Post and abolishing the House of Lords both are popular among an electoral base appalled at the apparent incompetence or unwillingness of the political class to implement the will of the people.

Labour have few reasons to celebrate. Despite the extraordinary fact that most of the 2017 Westminster Conservative support has defected, most of it to the Brexit Party, the Labour vote share is at a mere 27%.

This would give Labour the highest vote share, but not an overall majority, making them dependent on cooperating with (other) Remain-leaning parties – all of which want a second referendum.

In better news for Labour, Jeremy Corbyn comes out highest when it comes to ‘bringing the country together’ and ‘improving public services’. Surprisingly, for the first time in any Savanta ComRes polling, Corbyn slips into the top spot for preferred Prime Minister too, even though the gap (1%) is well within the margin of error.


So what next for Brexit?

With Theresa May set to put her Withdrawal Agreement to MPs for the fourth time in June, there seems precious little meeting of minds between Parliament and voters. Two-thirds of British adults (expressing an opinion) agree that “if Parliament rejects the withdrawal agreement, then parliament has to accept no deal as a consequence”.

However, with the PM likely to step aside if parliament does reject the agreement, the future of Brexit seems as unclear as any time in the past three years. Much now rests on both the future Conservative leadership election outcome, and indeed the wider European election results which threaten, or promise, depending on your position, to refresh the team negotiating Brexit from the EU’s side.

One thing is for certain, Thursday is going to be hugely significant even if the future possible outcomes remain as widely spread as ever. What we do know is that it is likely to bring bad news for the Tories and good news for the Lib Dems and Green Party. Whether it is likely to bring good cheer for hard-pressed voters is another matter.