Parliamentary systems are about seats and not overall percentage points
In all major parliamentary systems, what matters is not the percentage of the vote a party garners, but instead what matters is the number of seats a party gains in the parliamentary chamber. This is ultimately true in both first past the post and proportional representation systems in which multiple parties strive to attain the greatest number of parliamentary seats.
As UK party politics has become more diverse (in terms of the number of viable parties) since the middle of the last century, the percentage of total votes attained by major parties is necessarily going down as the competition increases. Yet even in the mid 20th century halcyon age of a more or less two party UK political system, it was very rare for any one party to win more than 50% of all votes because modern Britain has never been the kind of de facto two party system that for example the United States is. In other words, even when Britain was slightly more of a two party system than it is today, Britain’s democracy has always been a multi-party system in a literal sense.
In any case, parliamentary systems determine winners and losers in terms of seats in the same way that the US presidential system determines the victor in terms of electoral votes rather than the overall percentage earned by a candidate. This for example is why in the 2005 UK general election, the Labour party won 355 seats with 35% of the vote whilst the second place Tories won only 198 seats in spite of a winning 32% of the vote. Therefore, while the losing Tories were within striking distance of the victorious Labour party when measured in terms of percentage of all votes gained, in actual fact, the Tories fared very poorly based on the actual determining factor of winners and losers in a traditional parliamentary system – their number of seats.
Thus, with around 32% of the vote and 29 seats in the EU parliament, The Brexit Party is head and shoulders above the second place Liberal Democrats who won 16 seats with 20% of the vote.
The maths don’t lie
The final argument that the pro-EU class of liberal media intelligentsia have proffered is that if one combines the votes of all the pro-EU parties, it ends up equalling more than that of the Brexit Party. Here, the following equation is presented as “proof” that the winning party did not win.
16 seats (Lib Dems) + 7 seats (Greens) + 3 seats ( SNP) + 1 seat (Plaid Cymru)=27 seats
Thus, even if one combined the seats won by all of the unambiguously remainer parties, it still adds up to less than the amount of seats won by the Brexit party.
Although it is true that another unambiguously remainer party Change UK stood in the elections, they failed to win a single seat. As for Labour, it is true that if one classed Labour as a party of remain, its 10 seats would push a remain coalition over the edge in terms of beating out the Brexit party. But as things stand, Labour’s Brexit position is so ambiguous that it is difficult to say whether they are pro-Brexit or pro-Remain. This in fact is one of the reasons for Labour’s poor result.
That being said, as Labour’s manifesto claims that it is a pro-Brexit party, it would be disingenuous to lump Britain’s confused Labour party in with unequivocally pro-EU parties such as those listed in the simple equation above.
As for adding up percentages. As was detailed above, this is not how parliamentary systems work. Therefore the argument about adding up percentages is a fallacious straw man from the word go. Even so, such a equation only works if one discounts the fact that both Labour and the Conservatives are pro-Brexit according to their manifestos. As such, if one were to add the total percentage points of The Brexit Party, Conservatives, Labour and the pro-Brexit UKIP, this percentage total is far larger than the combined percentage totals of the pro-EU parties.
Remainers go rogue on Europe
Perhaps though, the biggest irony is that the remainers who claim to love all European institutions are justifying their percentage theory on the basis that coalitions are formed in the EU parliament in the same way in which they can be formed in the British House of Commons. The truth is quite different.
In the EU parliament, parties from nation states sit in large political groups based on a broadly shared ideology among parties from different EU member states. As it happens, the main pro-EU/remain parties (and in the case of Labour an allegedly pro-remain party) from the UK sit in different group in Brussels and Strasbourg.
The Liberal Democrats sit in the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group
The Green Party sit in the Greens–European Free Alliance
The Labour Party sit in the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats
Only the Scottish and Welsh nationalists sit mutually in the European Free Alliance which traditionally allies with the Greens.
Therefore, an erstwhile unimagined pro-remain coalition between various UK parties is simply not readily applicable to the group system of the EU parliament that divides parties on the basis of core beliefs rather than on the basis of views on Brexit.
Finally, there is Northern Ireland which sends but three MEPs to the EU parliament. As such, in terms of seats, all three would need to be pro-remain for the anti-Brexit mythical coalition to exist. Due to the fact that the pro-Brexit DUP is guaranteed to win at least one of those seats, this argument too is one that ultimately bears no relationship with reality.
Thus, the following factors are at play
–In parliamentary elections what matters is the number of seats won and not the overall percentage points of the parties
–The overtly remain parties even when combined won fewer seats than the Brexit party
–The Northern Ireland result is not going to alter the aforementioned facts
–Labour’s seats cannot in good faith be transferred to an imaginary anti-Brexit coalition. This is based on Labour’s current manifesto
–The Brexit Party, UKIP, Conservatives and Labour have a higher combined percentage than the unambiguously pro-remain parties
–The EU parliament does not form coalitions in the way that they can be formed in the British House of Commons…remainers ought to know that