The MP for Reading East, Rob Wilson, voted in parliament in February to give the prime minister power to trigger ‘article 50’ that begins the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. There was the briefest of Twitter storms at about the same time whether the Reading East constituency had voted to leave or to remain in the EU, and whether Rob Wilson was representing his constituents.
In his statement to his constituents before the vote, Rob Wilson said
I have received representations from my constituents in anticipation of this week’s Bill: some imploring me to vote for the triggering of Article 50; others urging me to vote against. The consistent theme running through this correspondence is an instruction for me to vote with my conscience. This is exactly what I intend to do.
why he supports Brexit despite his constituents voting Remain.
Rob Wilson replied:
Could you provide the evidence on how my constituency voted? My understanding is that no such breakdown is available.
The EU referendum in June 2016 was managed by local authorities who did not always break the results down by electoral ward. This can make it difficult to know for sure how an MP’s constituency voted.
A demographic study
Chris Hanretty at the University of East Anglia took a demographic approach to addressing this problem and estimated that Reading East voted 38.2% to leave the EU and Reading West voted 52.7% to leave. According to these results, most constituencies in the UK voted to leave the EU, so if all MPs had voted according to their constituents’ wishes, there would have been no difference to the result in parliament.
A balance of probabilities
An alternative approach to estimating how Reading East voted in the referendum is to infer how likely it was that the constituency voted to leave the EU, based on known data.
Reading Borough Council (RBC) have broken down their referendum data by ward, so we know that 25634 people (62.8% of those who voted) in the nine Reading wards that make up part of Reading East voted to remain in the EU [ref 6].
|Ward||# remain||# leave||% remain|
We also know that 55272 people (56.7%) in all of Wokingham borough voted to remain in the EU. Three Wokingham wards that are part of Reading East (Bulmershe & Whitegates, Loddon, and South Lake) are included in this total, but Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) haven’t broken down results by ward but by four arbitrary counting areas, each of which voted 56%-58% to remain in the EU [ref 6].
|Area||# remain||# leave||% remain|
|Arborfield, Barkham, Bulmershe &
Whitegates, Charvil, Emmbrook and
Evendons wards plus postal vote
boxes 1 and 8
|Finchampstead North, Finchampstead
South, Hawkedon, Hillside, Hurst
wards and part of Loddon Ward
postal vote boxes 2 and 9
|Part of Loddon Ward, Maiden Erlegh,
Norreys, Remenham, Wargrave &
Ruscombe, Shinfield North and
Shinfield South wards and postal
vote boxes 3 and 7
|Sonning, South Lake, Swallowfield,
Twyford, Wescott, Winnersh and
Wokingham Without wards and
postal vote boxes 4, 5 and 6
The latest data to show the number of electors per ward comes from the 2016 local elections [ref 1]. This suggests an electorate size of 17695 in the three WBC wards in the Reading East constituency. The turnout of WBC as a whole was 80% [ref 1], so we can estimate that 14156 people in these three wards voted in the EU referendum.
In order for the three WBC wards in Reading East to have overturned the result of the RBC wards, fewer than 1864 people (13.2%) from those three WBC wards would have had to vote to remain in the EU. This is a lower rate than that returned by Boston, in Lincolnshire, which returned the lowest remain vote in the country at 24.4%.
Such a result from Wokingham would also mean that the rest of the borough, outside the Reading East constituency, would have had to vote 64% to remain in order for the overall totals for the borough to add up. This would have been one of the highest rates in the country, roughly in line with parts of Scotland.
- we know that Reading Borough voted 58% to remain in the EU,
- we know that Wokingham Borough voted 57% to remain,
- we know that each of the four arbitrary areas within Wokingham for which results were broken down voted at least 56% to remain,
- there is a statistical and demographic study that suggests Reading East voted about 62% to remain,
- inference from known data shows that for Reading East to have voted leave, the wards Bulmershe & Whitegates, Loddon and South Lake would have had to vote 13.2% (or less) to remain, and the rest of Wokingham, 64% (or more).
There is nothing to support a view that Reading East voted to leave the EU, and available data makes this position implausible.
My thanks to councillor Josh Williams, who provided official Reading and Wokingham borough voting data.
Links and references
- Electoral commission electoral data from 2016 local authority election (Bulmershe & Whitegates, Loddon), and the WBC elections fact pack 2016 as at 27 April 2016 for South Lake, which did not hold a local election in 2016. Different criteria applied for eligibility to vote in the referendum and there were changes to numbers on the electoral register.
- Electoral Commission (both local election electoral size per ward, and EU referendum data)
- The EU referendum: how did Westminster constituencies vote?
- Rob Wilson, MP
- Rob Wilson’s voting record
- Reading and Wokingham borough referendum data, provided by councillor Josh Williams.
- 7 June deadline for EU referendum voter registration
- Both Reading MPs vote against EU citizens right to remain