Page last updated at 08:06 GMT, Wednesday, 20 May 2009 09:06 UK

Democrats 'putting England first'

By Brian Wheeler
Political reporter, BBC News

Next month's European elections could see voters turning to small parties in record numbers, but will the English Democrats be among those to benefit?

Robin Tilbrook
Robin Tilbrook wants to see an English Parliament

The six-year-old party, which launched its campaign for the 4 June elections in central London, believes it has something unique to offer voters.

"We are the party which is putting England first," says party chairman Robin Tilbrook, at its friendly but sparsely-populated campaign launch in central London.

Together with the SNP, in Scotland, and Plaid Cymru, in Wales, the English Democrats aim to "give 100% coverage of a credible, modern and reasonable nationalist alternative to the tainted careerists of the British political establishment".

"The English Democrats intend to be the voice of the English nation," he adds.

But early opinion polls suggest Mr Tilbrook's fledgling party faces a big battle against other parties appealing to voters' patriotic and anti-EU instincts.

'Frustrating'

The UK Independence Party (UKIP) appears to be the main beneficiary of public anger over the MPs' expenses scandal, while the British National Party (BNP) believes it is on the verge of gaining its first seats in the European Parliament.

There is a movement in public opinion, a change in attitude and we are part of that movement
Robin Tilbrook

Mr Tilbrook admits UKIP's poll performance is "frustrating" - but he argues that his is the only party speaking up specifically for England in the way that the SNP has done for Scotland.

"We have had friendly relations with the SNP. We see them as having gone the way that we are heading," he adds.

He also distances himself from what he sees as the racially-divisive stance of the BNP, pointing out that his party is fielding candidates from ethnic minorities.

Mr Tilbrook argues, with the optimism you need when you are the head of a small party, that if some of the results the English Democrats have seen in local council by-elections, and at the Haltemprice and Howden by-election where it almost out-polled the Green Party, are repeated they will be on course to gain their first MEPs.

Emulating SNP

But he also argues that the party, which is fielding a full slate of candidates in the 10 English regions, is fighting a longer game, that this year's elections are "part of a process of building up our party".

"There is a movement in public opinion, a change in attitude and we are part of that movement," he adds.

The English Democrats' main demand is for an English Parliament, with similar powers to the Scottish one at Holyrood.

They believe English voters have got a raw deal financially, with money flowing from England to Scotland and Wales.

They also want withdrawal from EU, arguing that England does not get its fair share of money from Brussels.

Mr Tilbrook is fond of casting his eye north of the border, when he talks of what he wants to achieve in the future.

"The SNP took almost 40 years to start winning seats. We are getting as good results as they were getting after 35 years and we have been in existence for just just six years."



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EUROPEAN ELECTION RESULTS

MEP Seats

  Votes MEPs
Party % +/- % Total +/-
EPP 33.4 -1.4 264 -18
Socialists 23.2 -4.1 183 -26
Liberal 11.0 +1.6 84 +5
Green 7.4 +1.3 50 +9
Left 5.3 -0.6 34 -2
UEN 3.4 +1.6 28 +2
Ind/Dem 2.7 -1.8 21 -15
No Group 13.6 +3.4 72 +3.4
0 of 27 countries declared.

UK Total MEP Seats

Party Votes MEPs
% +/- % Total +/-
CON 27.7 1.0 *26 1
UKIP 16.5 0.3 13 1
LAB 15.7 -6.9 13 -5
LD 13.7 -1.2 11 1
GRN 8.6 2.4 2 0
BNP 6.2 1.3 2 2
SNP 2.1 0.7 2 0
PC 0.8 -0.1 1 0
OTH 8.5 2.4 0 0
SF 1 0
DUP 1 0
72 of 72 seats declared. Vote share figures exclude Northern Ireland as it has a separate electoral system to the rest of the UK
* Includes UCUNF MEP elected in Northern Ireland
KEY STORIES
FEATURES AND BACKGROUND
BBC political editor Nick Robinson Nick Robinson
Follow the BBC Political Editor's assessment of developments
VIDEO REPORTS
Harriet Harman on the big screen on the Breakfast set Harman defends 'dismal' result

David Cameron Cameron 'delighted' with results

Nick Clegg Clegg: Results 'a good platform'

Nick Griffin Jubilant BNP hails 'great victory'

Nigel Farage UKIP: A hell of an achievement

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