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It’s election time – but should we care?

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: May 21, 2014

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IN case you weren’t aware, there is an election tomorrow.

Ordinary people in Burton and South Derbyshire might wonder why it is worth registering an interest in the European elections, but with no local vote in the region this year, it will be the only chance they have to cast their vote.

The ballot is also the only opportunity people have to decide who represents them in Brussels and Strasbourg, and with the European Parliament’s powers having steadily increased in recent years, politicians insist the vote has never mattered more.

Britain is one of eight countries which uses a ‘closed list’, which means voters choose a party rather than an individual.

The parties themselves decide who goes on the candidate list for each of the 12 electoral regions, which for voters in Burton will be the West Midlands, and for those in South Derbyshire the East Midlands.

As well the fate of the European Parliament being decided, political commentators will be keeping an eye on voting patterns for an early indication of the mood in the run-up to next year’s General Election.

Like the much-maligned inaugural police and crime commissioner elections in 2012, organisers of the European elections have been accused of not publicising the event well enough, with the vote already seen by many as the poorer sibling of the general and local elections.

Last time around, in 2009, only a third of Britons cast their vote.

The leader of East Staffordshire Borough Council, Labour’s Julian Mott, said: “They are probably the lowest-key elections I’ve ever known.

“That’s down partly to the style of the elections, where you vote for a party rather than a candidate, and perhaps the EU hasn’t done enough, but it is important that people in Burton do vote in the elections.”

Knowledge of the European elections was split among 10 people surveyed on the streets of Burton town centre.

Five knew the elections were tomorrow and intended to cast their vote, four had no idea there was a vote at all, while the other knew they were scheduled for some time this month.

It quickly became clear there was a divide between those wanting change on Europe and those apathetic towards politics as a whole.

Chris Tyler, from Winshill, will be casting a vote.

He said: “Every election is important. If you don’t vote, you lose your right to complain.”

Pat Jenkinson, from Willington, believes it is time for change, and that change can be delivered by UKIP.

“I feel strongly about it, I want out of the EU and I will be voting.”

Trevor Smith, 65, from Stretton, didn’t know when the election was. When informed it was tomorrow, he said he was undecided if he would be heading to the ballot box.

But Martin, from Branston, had his mind firmly made up.

“Our opinion doesn’t count,” he said. “I’m unemployed and can’t get a job. There is no point in voting.”

For those who are interested, the three main parties are, as ever, vying for your vote, along with those upstarts UKIP, whose leader Nigel Farage has predicted a surge which will create an ‘earthquake in politics’.

While many have bemoaned the lack of publicity surrounding the elections, it would have received even less attention without the added spice that has been delivered by UKIP, who have come from nowhere to find themselves as genuine contenders.

Councillor Mott believes it is imperative people in Burton go to the polls, insisting decisions made in Brussels have a direct impact on them.

He said: “They are extremely important. It is a chance for people to have their say and if they don’t they miss out on that chance.

“Lots of things that are decided in Brussels are very important, such as introducing catalytic converters and the maximum 48-hour working week.

“I hope that everyone will come out for the elections and everyone will vote.”

Unsurprisingly, UKIP has seized the opportunity to appeal to Euro-sceptics, insisting they are the party to take Britain out of Europe.

The Tories, though promising an in or out referendum should they remain in power in 2017, no doubt wary of losing voters to UKIP, insist change is needed in Europe and that only they can deliver it.

Emma McClarkin, the Conservatives’ number one candidate for the East Midlands, said: “As an MEP for the last five years, I know from experience we need change in Brussels.

“Other parties might make promises about a UK withdrawal from the European Union, but they simply have no power to deliver.”

Former Derbyshire County Council leader Andrew Lewer is also standing for the Tories.

He said: “David Cameron’s cast-iron – no ifs, no buts – pledge of a referendum on our EU membership before the end of 2017 is one of the most significant announcements for a generation and deserves to be supported.”

Meanwhile, the two other pro-European parties, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, will also appeal to the increasing clamour for change, but are unlikely to entertain calls to leave the EU altogether.

Labour said its MEPs were more focused on putting ‘jobs and growth’ at the heart of the EU and ‘tackling the cost of living crisis’.

Sitting East Midlands MEP Glenis Willmott said: “We don’t know what David Cameron will renegotiate or when he will do it. UKIP wants to take us out of Europe when the EU is essential for jobs and our economy.

“Nearly 340,000 East Midlands jobs are dependent on us being in.”

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