Main parties say low turnout could boost fringe
Politicians from all three main parties are calling on voters to take part in the upcoming European elections, amid concern about the impact of a low turnout.
On 4 June, London residents will be asked to vote for the party they want to represent them in the European Parliament. The parties themselves have each selected their own candidates and the eight seats for London will be distributed amongst the parties which win the highest number of votes.
For the purposes of the European elections, London is treated as one constituency and each of the eight MEPs who are elected will represent the whole of the city.
Lack of interest in European elections, however, has led to concerns that many may not bother to register or vote. Conservative MEP, Dr Charles Tannock, said: “Although I am of course hoping to achieve victory for my own Party, the Conservatives, I do hope whatever party citizens wish to vote for that there will be a reasonable turnout on 4th June for the Euro elections and express their choice, as democracy is something we should never take for granted in this country, as someone who has seen how precious it is in many other countries where people have died to defend it in recent years. A very low turnout also enables extremists and fringe to flourish.”
Labour MEP Mary Honeyball said: "Last year’s London elections showed how important voter turnout is. A very slightly higher turnout in the 2008 London Assembly elections could have stopped the BNP getting a seat on the London Assembly."
Local resident Dinti Batstone, who is on the Liberal Democrats' list of candidates for the European Parliament expressed a similar sentiment: “If turnout is very low, the BNP could get enough votes to win one seat. BNP supporters will be very motivated to come out and vote.”
Candidates have also been keen to emphasise how the work of the European Parliament affects our daily lives: “MEPs are responsible for amending and rejecting if necessary 80% of all EU law which in turn is responsible for 60% of UK law. This affects your life in areas such as regulating the quality of the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat, to your right to be protected against being ripped off in your mobile phone bills abroad in the EU and the right for instance to be treated abroad with the NHS paying for it, or the right to be compensated by an airline which suddenly cancels your flight. These are just a very few recent examples of where the many EU laws which MEPs work on impact on your daily life as a Londoner,” said Tannock.
“For the past 5 years your 3 Conservative MEPs have been working hard to ensure the promotion and protection of the interests of London and Britain in Europe and not the other way round. The European Union looms ever larger in our lives, whether we like it or not,” he added.
Labour MEPs say many of London's most pressing problems, such as drug trafficking, gun regulation, employment protection and climate change can only be fought at European level. "This is your chance to have a say about who makes decisions on issues as wide ranging as equal pay, mobile phone charges and working hours. Please don't leave it in the hands of the right wing racists. Use 4th June to have your say on what happens in European politics," says Mary Honeyball.
Dinti Batstone says European legislation may be instrumental in resolving a major local issue: "London's LibDem MEP Sarah Ludford has campaigned in the European Parliament for European air pollution laws to be used to block Heathrow expansion - a vote for the Liberal Democrats on 4th June is a vote to take the fight against the 3rd runway to Brussels."
She also says Londoners have MEPs to thank for saving them from high mobile phone charges: “Having already forced a reduction in roaming charges for making mobile phone calls abroad, the European Parliament has now tackled SMS text and data charges. From 1st July Londoners using their mobile phones across the EU
will be able to relax knowing that they won't come home to huge rip-off
bills,” she said.
London currently has 9 MEPs: 3 Conservatives, 3 Labour, 1 LibDem, 1 Green and 1 from the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).
Green Party MEP Jean Lambert said: "I encourage everyone to vote for a party they believe in on 4 June, despite the understandable dismay and disillusionment with politics at the moment.
"Around 80 per cent of the environmental legislation affecting the UK is from the EU and Members of the European Parliament help decide what is in it. So if you care about issues like climate change, air quality and the pesticides in your food then make sure you vote."
We asked UKIP to comment for the purposes of this article but received no reply from them.
The European elections will be held in the 27 member states of the European Union between 4 and 7 June 2009. European citizens who live in Britain can choose to vote here or in their home country but have to make their choice and register to vote by 19th May 2009.
May 15, 2009