European Parliament elections

This is a radio ad…

Tomorrow millions of citizens across Europe will not go out and vote. This may because several countries hold their elections on Sundays rather than Thursdays.

It is always nice for those who can’t get the hang of Thursdays to realise that they seem to be in the company of half a continent.

Other members of these millions may be failing to go out and vote because despite an election being on they have no desire to go and vote in it. This can come across as a rather good reason to abolish the elections on the basis that it will both save money and cause no inconvenience to over half the continent’s population.

In a bid to counter this the European Parliament have produced a radio ad explaining what radio adverts are for before encouraging the population of Europe to “tell us what to do” to a background jingle that sounds like something out of the Eurovision Song Contest – reasonably, as the Song Contest probably gets higher voter turnout and certainly generates better audience recognition of the winners.

The upshot of all this excitement is a huge amount of election material being circulated encouraging people to turn out and vote for one of the many parties standing in their area. Here is a summarised summary of the material that has come through my letterbox, intended for anyone who has just realised that they threw out all their advertising literature and now don’t know who to vote for.

The “Position on Europe” option is a rather blanket area. Both sides obviously reckon that they’re benefiting working people with their position. The “Out” side concentrates on immigration and the “In” side on jobs and growth.

(Parties which did not send me election material are not included as it is obviously impossible to assess election material that you don’t have. Consequently I am regrettably unaware of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party’s position on European membership. Close examination of the list below may also reveal one or two other more minor omissions of parties which evidently are not too bothered about getting my vote.)

An Independence from Europe

  • Summary: A well-chosen title for attracting three kinds of voter – those who want out of Europe, those who can be bothered visiting the polling station but can’t be bothered reading the rest of the ballot paper (who do, curiously, exist) and those who want to vote UKIP but are too stupid to realise they’re voting for the wrong party.
  • Position on Europe: Out.
  • Key non-Europe policy: Cancel High Speed 2.
  • Quality of election material: Bit cramped.

Conservatives

  • Also: Conservative and Unionist Party, Tory Party.
  • Summary: The Conservative Party remains much the same as when it emerged in the 1670s as the Tory Party, calling for a smaller state, Britain-centric policies internationally and arguments with neighbouring countries. Promises an EU membership referendum in 2017.
  • Position on Europe: Renegotiate membership terms, then have referendum. No view on outcome of referendum pending conclusion of negotiations.
  • Key non-Europe policy: Cut the deficit.
  • Quality of election material: Serious, large and easy-to-read. Has hints of a colour theme tending towards blue.

English Democrats

  • Summary: Unusually for a political party, the material opens with a statement that suggests that a portion of the electorate (those who are not both English and proud) should not read the leaflet. Modest voters look elsewhere. Has many firm “No” policies plus token symbolistic “Yes” policies and a statement about English jobs for English workers.
  • Position on Europe: Out.
  • Key non-Europe policy: St George’s Day to be a public holiday.
  • Quality of election material: Cluttered, with excessive exclamation marks.

Green Party

  • Summary: Positive and determined, the Green Party leaflet argues for a combination of ecological, peaceful and left-wing policies. Targeting the wing of the Labour Party that wants traditional Labour policies without the factories or the trade unions. Keen on democracy, EU reform and going nuclear-free.
  • Position on Europe: In, but with reforms for better democracy and cost-effectiveness.
  • Key non-Europe policy: Rail re-nationalisation (illustrated by a flipped picture of a privately-ordered train).
  • Quality of election material: Leaflet is small and neat. Has a distinct green colour theme.

Labour

  • Summary: The Labour Party has a wide-ranging document touching as many points as possible. Features both Labour policies and attacks on the Tories and UKIP. Dubious suggestion that a vote for Labour is necessary to get EU grants for the area. Inclined to take the opportunity to fight the next Westminster election on the side.
  • Position on Europe: In.
  • Key non-Europe policy: “Tackling the Cost-of-living crisis” (except for stinking rich)
  • Quality of election material: Serious two-sides of A4. Certain theme of red in the colour scheme.

Liberal Democrat

  • Summary: The descendent of one of the world’s older political parties is now the lead pro-Europe party. Their election material focuses on their achievements in Westminster rather than in the European Parliament – which does little to make the EuroParl seem relevant – but manages to put a European-relevant slant on this.
  • Position on Europe: In
  • Key non-Europe policy: No policies are actually featured in this material except the need to stay in Europe.
  • Quality of election material: Large, with orange theme. Recycled paper.

The one thing that comes across in all of these bits of election material is that they have some trouble distinguishing between calling for interest in European policies and getting the campaign going for May 2015, when there will be a General Election. In some ways this rather undermines all the anti-Europe (and, in other ways, the pro-Europe) arguments, since the voters are evidently expected to be more interested in UK politics than European politics. This is inclined to give an impression that Europe doesn’t exactly matter.

It’s curious how all the parties which have asked me to vote for them have names which begin with one of the first twelve letters of the alphabet. Unfortunately this attempt to get to the top of the ballot paper by all being above average rather cancels itself out in the process.

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