As we celebrate the biggest political change in over 100 years, spare a thought for the 235,124 people who were robbed of their fundamental human right to participate in a fair and free election and vote for their party of choice.
The Electoral Commission, either through bias or incompetence, allowed the highly misleading “An Independence from Europe. UK Independence now” to appear as the top option on ballot papers. Many ballot papers were folded before they were given to voters so that the real UKIP was hidden from view.
This can only have been a calculated, cynical attempt to confuse voters. “An Independence” was setup by an ex-UKIP member, who was deselected by the party. That redundant, incongruous, “An” in the name should have rung alarm bells at the Electoral Commission, as it can only have been included to ensure that the name featured artificially at the top of the ballot paper, which is listed alphabetically. It cannot be a surprise that large numbers of people were taken in by this decoy.
This trick has had a material impact on the outcome of this election. “An Independence from Europe”, a complete non-entity of a party, finished 7th nationally. There is no way that an unknown party, only formed in November and fighting its first election, could attract 235,000 votes, giving the lie to the Electoral Commission’s claim that the two names were sufficiently different to avoid confusion. This decoy polled over twice the votes of the well established Plaid Cymru, votes that were undoubtedly intended for UKIP.
By my calculations based on the d’Hondt formula, the 26,675 and 23,169 votes secured by “An Independence from Europe” in London and the South West respectively were enough to deprive UKIP of two MEPs. In both cases, the Green Party were the beneficiary, sneaking in to pick up two MEPs that they should not have. Had these votes, which were undoubtedly intended for UKIP, found their rightful home, UKIP would have gained those two MEPs giving them a total of 26, the Greens would have a total of one (a more fitting total for a party whose vote share went down very slightly from 2009).
London result with “An Independence”
London results with UK Independence and “An Independence” votes combined
The vexatious registration of imitation party names simply to confuse the electorate is supposedly illegal in this country. The 1998 Registration of Political Parties Act was introduced in part to prevent precisely this kind of cynical trickery. Prior to the Act, the 1990s saw a number of fake parties appearing on ballots, the “Conversative Party”, the “Labor party”, and perhaps most famously the “Literal Democrats” in the 1994 European Elections. In that election the “Literal Democrat” candidate took 10,000 votes, more than the difference between the victorious Conservatives and defeated Lib Dems.
The Lib Dems attempted, unsuccessfully, to sue after the “Literal Democrats” incident cost them a seat in the 90s. Thanks to the 1998 Act, the failure of the Electoral Commission in 2014 is clear, the effect on the outcome of the election easily demonstrable. Nigel Farage has called for the Electoral Commission to be abolished, and on the evidence of this showing it is difficult to disagree.
UKIP’s victory has been a handsome one despite these underhand tactics, but I hope this injustice will not be overlooked. As the election cannot be re-run, and the votes cannot be re-assigned to their intended recipient, I hope UKIP will take legal advice on a suitable course of action.