Parties at odds over Euro-election results

No sooner were the results for the European elections published than the Labour Party and the Green Party began bickering .

No sooner were the results for the European elections published than the Labour Party and the Green Party began bickering about who was in pole position to win the next elections: the Brighton and Hove City Council elections and the general election on May 7 next year.

There was no disputing the outcome of the 10 European Parliament seats up for grabs in the southeast, a single region with an electorate of 6,441,003 - of which 36.5% turned out to vote.

The UKIP surge resulted in them having four MEPs in the region (32.1% of votes cast, up 13.3% on 2009), with the Conservatives having three (31%, down 3.8%), followed by one each for Labour (14.7%, up 6.4%), the Greens (9.1%, down 2.6%), and the Liberal Democrats (8%, down 6.1%).

The battleground, however, was the data published about how people voted in each of the 67 local authority areas within the southeast region.

In Brighton and Hove - where turnout was 37.9% - Labour secured 20,414 votes (26.8% of the 76,030 votes cast in the city) - compared with 9,113 (14.5%) in the 2009 European elections, held when a Labour government was mired in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

The Green Party received 18,586 votes (24.4%) - compared with 19,727 (31.4%) in 2009.

From this raw data, party apparatchiks in both parties raced onto social media to argue that their party had - locally - "won" the Euro poll: Labour, because its votes had more than doubled in five years; the Greens, because a ComRes opinion poll of 1,004 people in the city last October had indicated Labour had 38% support - 11 percentage points higher than in the European elections; the opinion poll, sampled at a nadir in Green fortunes because of the Cityclean dispute, put the Green Party at 21% - three points lower in last week's elections.

In addition, Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion - one of three consituencies in the city - claimed the European results suggested she was on track to win the seat again next year.

This may be true. Then again, it may not be. The European votes were not counted in wards or in constituencies. So no constituency data was published.

Councillor Warren Morgan, leader of the Labour Group on the city council, tweeted on Monday: "In 2009 the Greens beat Labour by 10,000 votes, but a year later only won Pavilion by 1,250. Yesterday we beat them by 1,750. #cantholdseat".

Which may be true. Then again, it may not be.

In 2010, Ms Lucas won Brighton Pavilion, with 31% of the votes - in a general election in which Green support was concentrated in the heart of the city; in the two other constituencies - Hove and in Brighton Kemptown - Green candidates attracted only 5% of the votes.

In other words, about three in four Green votes in the city were cast in Brighton Pavilion. In 2011, at the city council elections, the proportion was lower, at three in five.

One thing seems clear: the Green Party vote in the city has not imploded - getting only 1,141 fewer votes last week than in 2009, despite the travails of the minority Green council administration.

It is possible for Ms Lucas to hope that nearly 14,000 of her party's votes in the European elections were from people in Brighton Pavilion.

Therefore - assuming that Green support is very highly concentrated in a single constituency, that turnout is evenly distributed across the city, and that Green voters are just as likely to vote or not to vote as anyone else - it may be true that the Green Party is in pole position in Brighton Pavilion.

With a higher turnout at a general election (70% or so), it may well be true that Ms Lucas could expect to attract more than the 16,238 votes that won her the seat last time.

Then again, it may not be.

In fact, the truth may be that next year's elections will be decided by people who have not yet decided whether to vote and how to vote – particularly when the results are much closer to home than Brussels or Strasbourg.

Regardless, the bickering has only just begun.