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Monday, 14 June, 1999, 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK
It was a result few had predicted. The Conservatives becoming the largest British party in the European Parliament.
Labour's vote appears to have dropped by more than 20% from its peak at the 1997 general election while some of the smaller parties had historic gains, particularly the UK Independence Party.
Only 23% of Britons bothered to vote in the election but what is their message for the politicians about Europe?
What do you think about the outcome? To have your say fill in the form below:
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Most parties did not really explain how they will vote in the European parliament; the campaign was largely unnoticeable and consisted of a lot of mud-slinging. No wonder so few people bothered to vote. More clear political information next time, please!
To those people who are advocating compulsory voting as a solution (and that includes many Labour activists I have met) - you are wrong.
It is the job of those who stand for office to enthuse the voters, to inform them and to inspire them. Of all the parties only the Greens seemed actually to want to do this. Authoritarian solutions do not make a lot of difference to the kind of government you get (look at Australia), and if people choose not to vote they will get exactly the government they deserve.
Professional pundits seem baffled by the low turnout. However, anybody in touch with the real world knows why; it's because most believe that "Europe", including the Euro, will increasingly be imposed upon them, just as the Maastricht Treaty was, without their opinions being regarded as relevant by the politicians or media personalities with any influence. Suggest to someone with this opinion that at least the Euro can't be imposed without a referendum and you'll get a shrug; they don't know how "they'll" get around it, but they're convinced "they" will.
The Tories' campaign position is in line with the views of the majority of people in this country - including, I suspect, those who did not vote. People are also tired of the government's patronising and dictatorial stance on most issues of the day. Compared to Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher was the embodiment of consensus politics.
Although the turnout was poor, and although I voted Labour, I am not disappointed by the result of the European elections. The swing to the Centre-right in Europe should hopefully shift the legislative focus of the parliament away from the quagmire of Social and Environmental issues that seem to have dogged us over the past four years, towards a more trade and economically driven body. Ironically, this could strengthen the cause for the Euro, and increase the probability of its success.
If the labour party want to take the people of the British Isles into Europe then they should get their act together. I want to know what their manifesto is not what the socialist group think is good for me. Their campaign was a disgrace topped by closed lists where so called candidates are parachuted into a region because they are pals of our Tony! What does Mr Cashman know about the West Midlands other than he played a part on stage there once upon a time?
Why are Labour and Lib Dem spokespersons not challenged when the refer to the Conservative position in Europe as extremist? There is nothing extreme in wanting the destiny of our country to be in our own hands. If you listen to the spin you would think that voting Conservative is akin to aligning yourself with the BNP. Not wanting to be run by Europe does not necessarily make you a 'Little Englander' and is a perfectly reasonable position to take. Don't let the debate by hijacked by Labour rubbishing everyone with a position contrary to theirs.
There should be no surprises at the low turnout. Statistically it is not enormously different from the votes in previous Euro-elections. Many voters must have been suffering from ballot fatigue, what with national assembly and council elections only a few weeks before. Judging by the lack of effort by the main political parties, even Labour and Lib Dem activists seem to have taken a raincheck on the election.
The whole thing is a farce.... the British public didn't bother to vote because they think so too. I doubt that the victory was a landslide for conservatives, more likely their stalwart supporters were the majority of the people who bothered to vote, they wanted to win something! Perhaps if less than 50% of the voting population actually votes, an election should be declared invalid. J Tibbetts, UK
I think the poor show at the polls only confirms peoples lack of interest in Europe. I suspect it's not that they don't care about Europe, but that they want to distance themselves from it. Unfortunately this might be our last chance to not lose our control to the European Bureaucrats. Rick Savory, Great Britain
Come on Labour, lets have a proper discussion on the Euro and Europe with both Euro-sceptics and Euro-fanatics taking part. I find it amazing that Tony Blair turned down William Hague's offer of a televised discussion over this, the most important issue we will ever vote on. WHY NOT? Of course we all know the reason why there will be no discussion on it...because the economic facts, common-sense and honesty are ALL on the Euro-Sceptics side, that's why. The people who will benefit the most from the Euro will be the politicians, that's one thing for sure. Steve Hanwell, England
For the next European Election, why not move for the principle that the number of votes a country receives in Europe, be made, in hindsight, proportional to the number of votes cast by its public that round, (while the number of representatives necessarily remains in accord with the country's actual population) ? Dan Shepherd, UK
We are just having too many elections at present. The voter is getting bored and apathetic. Brussels seems such a distant place, and Britian, with its Island mentality, doesn't realise what a great opporttunity it is missing out on. Forget about a £ and get on the Euro bandwagon, or get left behind still thinking that there is a British Empire out there. That was lost years ago, and the decline hasn't stopped since. Malcolm Campbell, Britain
The fact that UK people didn't vote is not just apathy, but a general statement on how they regard being coralled into a European socialist state. We are meant to live in a democracy, yet we are not allowed by referrendum to vote on how far we want to be integrated into Europe. Many surveys have shown that the majority of people in all of the major European member states, don't want complete integration - we all want some say in our own destinies and sovereignty.
We see no end to the corruption in Brussels - many of the same faces are going back there, some under a different guise, but essentially, this election is a statement from the people in the UK - Home rule for the UK, we want our Pound, and keep the bureaucracy and socialistic misrule the other side of the channel. Tim Wickes, UK
The Labour goverment got exactly what it deserved - you can only treat the people with contempt for so long. It has tried twice to change the voting system to suit itself and feather the nest of its politicians and failed. Democracy will only return to Parliament when politicians stop following party lines and do what they are elected for - represent the people and not the party. M.E.Ps have done nothing for the people of this country. David Tyler, England.
One of the main reasons for the low Euro election turn out is simple, (it also helps explain the low Welsh Assembly turnout)...people generally, will only vote if they think that their vote will have an impact. In Europe the UK's voice is a very diluted voice...if every UK MEP was a Green party MEP, it wouldn't make the slightest difference to what the European parliament decided.
In Wales we all knew that the big decisions would still be made in Whitehall, so why bother voting for what most people in Wales believe is a talking shop? This feeling that at a "local/national" level our votes have no influence in Europe is the biggest risk facing the future stability of the EU.
People who feel that they have no effective voice, (and this will apply to all countries in the EU) will start to reject the EU on a widescale basis, leading to stronger and stronger independence parties, and eventually the total breakdown of the EU, (hopefully peacefully, more likely with much violence).! Every monolithic empire has collapsed in the past, and the currently corrupt and criminally inefficient EU has no right to believe that it is immune to such a fate. James Bird, Wales
Since it seems that the Tories will be victorious over Labour, public opinion is obviously in favour of keeping the pound, and therefore an immediate referendum on the issue should be instigated. Richard Turley, UK
We joined a trading organisation and have ended up with a non-democratic corrupt and incompetant monster. Time to leave in my opinion. Dan Ludlow, UK
Maybe Labour voters supported the Conservatives because their campaign was run in line with current public opinion. Not everyone is as convinced of the benefits of Europe as the Labour leadership. The aggressive (but cautious) pro-european stance of Tony Blair is confusing to say the least, but with Conservative the voter knows what they are supporting: Real politics not a media-manipulated PR campaign. James Russell, England
It is interesting to note that Phoney Blair's phoney policy on Britain's relationship has been utterly rejected by the electorate. 75% of the electorate stayed away from the European elections - refusing to legitimise Blair & Britain's participation in the Evil Union with its lack of democracy, corruption, fraud, nepotism and dishonest aims and policies.
Mr. Blair the British people do not wish to put you, your party or Britain at the heart of Continental Europe. We wish to keep OUR Pound, control over our economy, our rights and freedoms and reclaim our position as an Independent Sovereign Nation on a Global stage.
The British people have shown they do not approve. Greg Lance - Watkins, The Welsh Assembly,
Regardless of one's position on either the EU or political parties, the abysmally low turnout at the Euro elections in the UK is a disaster for democracy. Neither the anti-Europe parties, including the Conservatives, nor the pro-Europe parties can take any satisfaction from the result. Whilst the Tories may have scored a morale-boosting victory in terms of seats won, the overall "pro" versus "anti" Europe votes virtually cancel each other out. Personally, I consider the following are the main reasons for the degree of voter apathy:
In particular, I would cite the media as being the major contributory factor to voter apathy towards Europe. Amongst our many excellent newspapers, TV and radio news programmes, European matters are only significant by their absence. Coverage of domestic European politics and business is almost non existent - whilst we are deluged with news and trivia from the USA. When there is coverage of the EU, it is more often than not merely "knocking copy".
It is time that the media took a more balanced view over the European Union, most especially the work of the European Parliament. This can only be achieved by devoting more time and space to it on a daily basis. Then, the population may be able to achieve an informed opinion on issues before the next European Parliamentary elections. I look forward to 2004! Mark Winspear, England.
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