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Page last updated at 13:48 GMT, Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Saying 'no' to Europe

Nick Watson
Nick Watson
Producer
Politics Show West Midlands

Voters opposed to UK membership of the EU will be spoilt for choice when they go to the polls for the European elections in the Midlands in June.

Voters opposed to UK membership of the EU will be spoilt for choice when they go to the polls for the European elections in the Midlands in June.

Coventry socialist councillor Dave Nellist is behind the latest party calling for an exit. "No2EU - Yes to Democracy" does pretty much what it says on the tin.

The new party attacks the EU from the left, giving those wanting a withdrawal from Europe yet another way of saying "no" to the project.

Capitalist plot

As befits a party of the left they are opposed to EU membership on the grounds that it is basically a "capitalist plot" against working people.

They are also hoping to pick up votes in a constituency that is currently the domain of parties on the right of the political spectrum.

Dave Nellist
Dave Nellist: 'Working class, internationalist opposition to the EU'

"Without a working class, internationalist opposition to the EU in June, the field would be left clear for groups of the far right to falsely pose as the champions of working men and women," said Councillor Nellist, a former Labour MP, at the launch.

Considerable support

"All the big parties, Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat, agree with an EU constructed for the benefit of big companies and their profits, not for the needs, in particular the protection of jobs of ordinary people," he adds.

At the moment the anti-EU field is led in the West Midlands by the UK Independence Party - in Mike Nattrass it already has an MEP as well as a track record of considerable electoral support.

At the last set of Euro elections in 2004 UKIP secured 251,366 votes - 17.49% of the vote. This put them in third place in terms of popular vote ahead of the pro-Europe Liberal Democrats and they will be looking to build on this on June 4.

UKIP MEP Mike Nattrass
Mike Nattrass leads the anti-EU field

Sabre rattling

But UKIP certainly have not got it all their own way when it comes to opposition to Europe.

Some close observers of the Midlands political scene believe there could be an increase in the share of the vote for the British National Party in this year's Euros.

It is not just sabre rattling Labour MPs, who are sometimes accused of exaggerating the BNP threat to mobilise their vote, sounding the warning.

Proportional representation

Some Conservatives also say they are detecting rising support for the party on the doorsteps Whether this translates into returning an MEP is more difficult to judge.

Last time the party secured 7.5% of the vote and they will need to up this by around 4% if the party's Deputy Leader Simon Darby is to become a West Midlands MEP.

Given that this time round the region will only be returning six rather than seven MEPs and the equation starts to look more difficult still for them - even though MEPs will be returned under the D'Hondt system of proportional representation.

Nay sayers

With these three parties scrapping it out for the votes of those who want us out of Europe completely the anti-EU vote could fragment.

Fears that Labour's vote may shrink have also up the stakes for parties hoping to attract the disaffected.

Added to this heady mix of nay sayers is the newly formed Libertas party.

Radical re-think

While Libertas (or whatever it is finally agreed they can call themselves in the UK) may not be campaigning on an anti-EU platform they do want radical changes in how the EU operates.

They are actually pro-European but they are committed to a radical programme of reorganisation which they claim would result in "bringing more democracy, accountability and transparency to European law-making institutions."

Policies include calls for a referendum on the EU constitution for all countries, the scrapping of Strasbourg as a European Parliament venue and a new rule which would mean only elected politicians can make laws.

European debate

Not anti-EU but certainly anti the way in which the EU is organised under the current structures.

At the last EU elections the West Midlands recorded the lowest turnout in England with just 36.8% bothering to cast a ballot.

This time around they certainly cannot complain about a lack of choice when it comes to choosing who to vote for on either side of the European debate.

The Politics Show for the West Midlands, with Jon Sopel and Michael Collie, Sundays at 1200 GMT on BBC One

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