Apathy or activism? Lancashire's voters get set to go to the polls

Flags flying at the European Parliament building in Strasbourg
Flags flying at the European Parliament building in Strasbourg
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Campaign leaflets will have been dropping through your letterbox and you may never have heard of any of the candidates ... but it’s make your mind up time. Fiona Finch sets the scene for Thursday’s European elections.

It is the election which was not meant to happen.

Dr Mark Garnett

Dr Mark Garnett

But the roller coaster ride which is British politics at the moment stops on Thursday for a visit to the polling booths.

This week’s European elections take place against a backdrop of domestic division about Brexit and unprecedented uncertainty about Britain’s future role in Europe.

The recent local district council elections in Lancashire saw a turnout of around a third in many places and opinion differs as to whether apathy or activism will rule at this week’s ballot.

Last time, in the 2014 Euro vote, there was a 33.5 per cent turn out in the north west with 1,763, 709 people voting.

Professor David Denver

Professor David Denver

Overall nationally the UK turnout was 35.4 per cent. Political observer Dr Mark Garnett,, a senior lecturer in the department of politics, philosophy and religion at Lancaster University, said: “It’s probably I would say the most controversial election of any which I’ve had in my lifetime. It’s quite hazardous to speculate really.

“The thing about 2014 was that Cameron ( David Cameron the Prime Minister) promised there would be an in-out referendum and that obviously changed the landscape completely and encouraged people to see it in a similar kind of light to this.”

Some people were he noted “hoping to be casting votes for the very last time and it was a way to affirm their desire to get Britain out. That’s why UKIP did so well last time.

“I would think (this time) there might not be as much interest. I would be surprised if the turn out was quite as strong as last time...The people who are most interested in the institution (European Parliament) are the most politically turned on, but we saw in the Brexit referendum their contempt for the E.U.”

He concludes Brexiteers have an incentive to vote “to seek closure” while Remainers may see this as the opportunity to demonstrate the strength of opinion on their side of the debate.
Another issue for the electorate is navigating a different style of election and quite simply knowing who they are voting for. .

Mark said: “A further complication is that the name recognition is lower.”

He notes there are very few well known people standing in th north west election. Previously sitting MEPs and a county councillor will be among the few names known to some Lancastrians.

The list system adopted by the UK as its mechanism for allocating seats means parties draw up lists of candidates in order of preference, with seven parties having eight names on those lists this year.

Those at the top of each list will have a the greatest chance of getting elected if sufficient votes are cast for their party. and Independents and smaller parties are on a one or two person list.

Those leaflets which have arrived feature national party leaders prominently, no doubt in the hope this will guide the electorate. Such personalities, in a an election with few distinguishing local features and a short campaign period, become ever more important.

Mark believes the list system, which ensures MEPs “never develop personality cults” does not encourage a high turn out. He said: “The first thing you say about any national election (is) the electorate is volatile. So even the opinion polls could easily be very wrong. ..in this election more than any other. ”

Veteran politics watcher and election specialist Professor David Denver, Emeritus Professor at Lancaster University, said: “ Nobody, ever knows anything about what’s going on in the E.U... The European Parliament is hardly reported in the media. I don’t know precisely what MEPs do and I’m fairly attentive to politics. People don’t know who their MEPs are. They find it very hard to make any kind of impact at all.”

Noting the list system “confers a great deal of power on the party organisations” David believes disillusion with how the Brexit debate has played out in Parliament could motivate many voters’ actions: “Are people so angry that they’ll actually make an effort to vote or are they so bewildered they can’t be bothered to vote?

“When we have European elections separate from the local elections the turnout is very poor because folk are mystified by it and don’t know what it’s all about.”

The deadline for Britain's withdrawal is the end of October, but a week is a long time in politics and the situation changes from day to day.

Whatever result are announced on Sunday/Monday uncertainty will prevail. Mark predicted:“I almost think the British MEPs are going to be ostracised. Not out of rudeness, but out of a kind of recognition these people are only here because of a chronological accident.We couldn’t sort out Brexit in time to cancel the elections.”

European Union Factfile
*There are 28 member states, with 751 MEPs (Member of European Parliament)
*Polls are open between 7am and 10pm on Thursday.. *Local Returning Officers will send results to the Regional Returning Officer.(RRO). The North West of England will elect 8 MEPs and the regional result will be announced by RRO Joanne Roney at Manchester Central convention complex with the results announcement anticipated between 11.30pm and 12.30 am. No results can be announced until all polls have closed across the EU - i.e. not before 10pm on Sunday May 26.
*In England, Scotland and Wales the voting system is a form of proportional representation using a closed list.In Northern Ireland it is a single transferable vote.
* Voting day varies from Thursday to Sunday in other European countries. For regional results see: http://www.northwestvotes.gov.uk/info/11/results * In 2014 three Labour, three UKIP and two Conservative MEPs won the North West seats.

CANDIDATES IN NORTH WEST 2019

Brexit Party

1.Claire Regina Fox

2.Henrik Eyser Overgaard Nielsen

3.David Richard Bull

4.Gary Walter Harvey

5.Ajay Jagota

6.Elizabeth Oyedoyin Babade

7.Sally Ann Bate 8.

8.John Howard Kelly

Change UK

1.Andrea Cooper

2.Daniel Price

3. Arun Ranmoy Colin Banerji

4.Michael Stewart Taylor

5.Philippa Olive

6.Victoria Ann Desmond

7.Andrew Paul Graystone

8. Elisabeth Malisa Knight

Conservative and Unionist Party

1.Sajjad Haider Karim

2.Kevin Michael Beaty

3. Jane ElizabethAnn Howard

4.Arnold Saunders

5.Wendy Maisey

6.Thomas Baxter Lord

7.Anthony Pickles

8. Attika Salim Choudhary

English Democrats

1.Stephen Morris

2.Valerie Morris

Green Party

1.Gina Dowding

2.Wendy Kay Olsen

3. Jessica Ayesha Northey

4. Geraldine Philomena Coggins

5. Rosie Mae Mills

6.Astrid Johnson

7. Daniel Adam Jerrome

8. James Andrew Booth

Independent

Mohammad Aslam

Labour Party

1.Theresa Mary Griffin

2. Julie Carolyn Ward

3.Wajid Iltaf Khan

4.Erica Ruth Estelle Lewis

5.David John Brennan

6.Claire Emily Cozler

7.Saf Ismail

8. Yvonne Marion Tennant

Liberal Democrats

1.Chris Davies

2. Jane Elisabeth Brophy

3.Helen Foster-Grime

4.Anna Corrina Fryer

5.Sam Al-Hamdani

6. Rebecca Ann Forrest

7. John Studholme

8.Frederick Van Mierlo

Tommy Robinson

Tommy Robinson

UK European Union Party (UKEUP)

1.Sophie Catherine Larroque

UKIP

1.Adam Fox McCloud Richardson

2.Jeff Armstrong

3.Fiona Rachel Mills

4.Nathan Alan Ryding

5.Michae James Felse

6.Ben Robert Fryer

7.John Charles Booker

8.Alexander Alan Craig