This Thursday, citizens from across the EU will turn out to elect hundreds of representatives to the European Parliament.
Well, some of us will. At the last elections, in 2009, only 43 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballots. In Britain, it was just 34.5 per cent.
With a hefty dose of controversy thanks to a surge by the UK Independence Party, the event has dominated the headlines in recent weeks.
But asked whether the result of the poll will have any impact on our lives – and whether we would notice any difference if Labour receives the largest number of MEPs, or Ukip does – MEP Godfrey Bloom told Metro: ‘British MEPs have 7 to 8 per cent of the vote in what is an amending chamber. So the answer to your question: it doesn’t make the slightest bit of bloody difference at all.
‘I think an awful lot of people don’t turn out to vote, they don’t understand it and they can’t be bothered.’
Mr Bloom has served as MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber since 2004. He was elected on a Ukip ticket but had the whip withdrawn last September after he hit a journalist over the head with a party brochure and referred to his female audience at a party event as sluts.
He said that, on the one hand, we should care because ‘over 70 per cent of our law now comes from the European Union. And there are 2,000-odd rules and regulations that come in every year.’
On the other, he added: ‘The European Parliament isn’t a law-making body, it’s an amending chamber. So that does tend to suggest that it isn’t as important as it should be when it comes to the amount of legislation passing through.’
He also posed the question: ‘Do people not take much notice of the European elections because they don’t really understand them?
‘I have dinner with men of my own age who read law at Oxford who still have absolutely no idea how they’re governed.
‘In fact, you probably won’t be able to name more than three or four MEPs off the top of your head. I’ve never met anybody who can.’
Stephen Booth, research director of the Open Europe think tank, said: ‘The distance between your vote and what comes out of the EU machine is huge.
‘That’s something that puts a lot of people off and makes it quite difficult to explain what the European Parliament does, even though it has huge amounts of power.
‘It does make a difference, in that it does have quite a lot of legislative power – on issues such as free trade. But these are quite specific and technocratic, not the kind of things that are likely to capture a voter’s imagination.’
Open Europe is predicting a wave of gains for populist, anti-EU, anti-austerity, anti-immigrant and anti-establishment parties and estimates that protest parties of various forms could win as much as 31 per cent of the vote this time around, up from 25 per cent in 2009.
Many activists hope to use the vote to get their campaigns on to the national agenda.
Designer Meg Mathews is standing in London for the Animal Welfare Party, which is joining forces with six other political organisations across the continent to get the first dedicated representative for animals elected to the parliament.
Noel Gallagher’s ex-wife said EU success for her party ‘would really signal to the rest of the world that the way we treat animals has to and is changing for the better’.
Comedian and actor Rufus Hound describes himself as ‘just some Johnny clown shoes celebrity’ who has ‘no desire to take power’.
Yet he is standing as a candidate for the National Health Action Party, which was formed by medical professionals to oppose what they describe as the Coalition’s ‘clear agenda to increasingly privatise and commercialise the NHS’.
He told Metro: ‘If the NHA can get one candidate elected, that is going to send quite the message in the lead-up to the general election that people are waking up to the fact that the NHS is deeply under threat and hopefully then it gets pushed to the top of the agenda.
‘Frankly, if anybody’s apathetic about voting in the EU election, just to turn up, to spend ten minutes voting for the NHA, means that suddenly politicians are going to feel very shaky about what they thought their approach to the general election was going to be.’
However, Professor Maurice Fraser, head of the European Institute at the London School of Economics, said: ‘We need to keep the significance of these elections in perspective.
‘They will deliver an unequivocal warning to Europe’s leaders that they need to deliver the economic goods. At home, they will produce lots of short-term headlines: who’s up, who’s down, whose leadership is in jeopardy?
‘But they will tell us next to nothing about the outcome of the general election set for spring 2015.’
19 May 2014 | 6:00 am – Source: metro.co.uk