One of the perils of political activism, or indeed sports team support, is the readiness with which you can slip into thinking that those outside your tribe are stupid.
It’s something I try to guard against – and one of the reasons, for example, I’m such a fan of the Not Enough Champagne podcast. It has just the right mix of ‘yes, of course, I agree with that and ‘no way! that’s completely wrong’ to help keep Lib Dems out of their comfort zones.
But oh my, it’s hard to keep to those good intentions when faced with these explanations from other parties for rebuffing Lib Dem moves towards some sort of united pro-Remain front for the European elections:
The short version of how the European Parliament elections work in England, Scotland and Wales is that they use list PR with the d’Hondt system. Voters get to put one cross on the ballot paper against a party. There is no recording of different preferences.
The allocation of seats isn’t perfectly proportional, and in fact can’t be. For example, in Wales there are four seats so a party that polls, say, 17% either has to be under-represented (with 0 seats) or over represented (with 1 seat, i.e. 25% of the seats). D’Hondt works out which of these it is.
The point for inter-party cooperation, therefore, is that it means parties can run up lots of votes and still not get seats – or not win an extra seat. Vote splitting amongst different parties increases the odds that those votes won’t turn into seats.
I’m usually a sceptic about formal party pacts over not putting up candidates – as the track-record of inter-party cooperation is that there are more effective ways of doing it. That said, in these European elections there is a real risk that the absence of such arrangements, formal or informal, will result in fewer Remain MEPs being elected and a weaker outcome for the Remain cause.