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  • Development Intelligence

EU Elections – Interpreting mid-term elections


We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again, translating mid-term EU or Parliamentary by-election results into a future General Election result is almost meaningless; ask the Greens in 2009, the BNP in 2010, or UKIP in 2014. So once again, here are the ‘DI Top Ten Tips’ on interpreting mid-term elections:

1. Mid-term elections are always just a referendum on how the punters are feeling about the sitting Government on that day, filtered through what the media has told them; let facts not intrude. Thus, mid-term elections are always protest votes.


2. Mid-terms therefore tell you little that’s useful about (a) the Government’s real (un)popularity, (b) the Opposition’s real (un)popularity or (c) public opinion on any one issue.


3. The ‘rule of thumb’ is that the Government usually get a kicking, the Opposition usually does well and occasionally a small bunch of single-issue loonies surprise everyone.


4. If the governing party does well, however, then that is significant.


5. If the Opposition doesn’t do well, then that is also significant.


6. If a minor party does well, then this usually means bugger all and normal order is resumed at the next General Election with said minor party returning to electoral obscurity.


7. If it is an unwinnable election, then most political parties don’t spend much time, money or resource on it.


8. The party which wins, claims “this is an historic victory which will change the course of politics for all time”. It never does.


9. All parties use the result to damage the other parties, even if their own result is catastrophic: “Well Hugh, we may have had a 90% swing against us, lost our deposit and our candidate committed suicide at the count, but really the story of the night is that this is a truly terrible result for the other parties”.


10. Any truly meaningful impact of the result is always completely lost on the media.