European Elections 2019: Who is standing in the East of England – and how will the election work?
- Credit: AP
In two weeks time voters will be going back to the polls for an election that few expected to happen.
Britain was supposed to have left the EU at the end of March, but that deadline passed and now the country is having to take part in elections for the new European Parliament.
These elections are the only ones in which the whole UK uses a form of proportional representation. The six counties of the East of England (Suffolk, Essex, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire) elect seven MEPs by a party list system.
This means voters do not vote for an individual candidate (unless you vote for the sole independent on the ballot paper) but for the party list of your choice.
There are eight parties standing in the election, each of which can name up to seven candidates that they want to see elected. Candidates are allocated seats according to the proportion of votes cast.
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In 2014, the last time the seats were contested, there were three UKIP MEPs elected, three Conservatives, and one Labour.
This time the landscape has changed considerably. UKIP is no longer the electoral force that it was, but will be putting up candidates (including one sitting MEP Stuart Agnew).
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But Nigel Farage's new Brexit Party will be fighting its first-ever election and polls suggest it will do very well.
The other new party on the block is Change UK, also known as The Independent Group, formed of Labour and Conservative MPs frustrated at their parties' direction and trying to form a new pro-EU force in the centre of British politics.
Both the Brexit Party and Change UK have interesting names in their line-up. The Brexit Party list is headed by Richard Tice, a multi-millionaire businessman who founded the "Leave Means Leave" pressure group after the 2016 Referendum and who is a regular Brexit advocate on television.
Change UK's list for the region includes two former MPs, Neil Carmichael who was Tory MP for Stroud in Gloucestershire until 2017 and Roger Casale who was Labour MP for Wimbledon until 2005.
The Conservatives' list is headed by outgoing MEPs Geoffrey Van Orden and John Flack and Alex Mayer is hoping to be re-elected for the Labour Party.
Much of the interest in the election will be focussed on the impact of the new parties on more established groups.
Will The Brexit Party and UKIP split the vote among hard-line Brexiteers? The polls suggest that UKIP's support has haemorrhaged - but it does still have name recognition.
What seems more certain is that the centre-ground vote will be split between Change UK and the Liberal Democrats who were not able to reach a deal to support each other in this election.
That could lead to these parties taking votes from each other - and failing to win any MEPs.
One party that could benefit this time around is the Greens. In 1989 when there was confusion about centre-ground parties, the Green Party did very well in European elections because they had a clear message that people backed.
That was before MEPs were elected by proportional representation - and a repeat of that result this year could see the first Green elected from the East of England. UEA Professor Catherine Rowett heads their regional list.
Labour is taking the election seriously and its party members will be busy trying to get the vote out for their candidates..
However many Conservatives are angry that the election is happening and are not taking any part in it. The Ipswich Conservative Association is not campaigning - although if any of its members want to take part they will not object.
And there is still a chance that the UK will have pulled out of the EU before the new European Parliament is due to sit for the first time at the beginning of July.
Whatever happens, the plan at present is for the UK to have left by October 31 - which would mean the new MEPs would have very short careers!
Voting for the European election is on May 23 - but the result is not declared immediately.
Other European countries vote at the weekend, so the votes are verified on the night but not counted until the evening of Sunday, May 26.
The votes are counted at local centres before they are sent through to a central count at Chelmsford from where the final result is announced during the late evening.
Candidates in the East of England:
- Change UK: Emma Taylor, Neil Carmichael, Bhavna Joshi, Michelle de Vries, Amanda Gummer, Thomas Graham, Roger Casale.
- Conservative: Geoffrey Van Orden, John Flack, Joe Rich, Thomas McLaren, Joel Charles, Wazz Mughal, Thomas Smith.
- English Democrat: Robin Tilbrook, Charles Vickers, Bridget Vickers, Paul Wiffen.
- Green: Catherine Rowett, Rupert Read, Martin Schmierer, Fiona Radic, Paul Jeater, Pallavi Devulapalli, Jeremy Caddick.
- Labour: Alex Mayer, Chris Vince, Sharon Taylor, Alvin Shum, Anna Smith, Adam Scott, Javeria Hussain.
- Liberal Democrat: Barbara Gibson, Lucy Nethsingha, Fionna Tod, Stephen Robinson, Sandy Walkington, Marie Goldman, Jules Ewart.
- Brexit Party: Richard Tice, Michael Heaver, June Mummery, Paul Hearn, Priscilla Huby, Sean Lever, Edmund Fordham.
- UKIP: Stuart Agnew, Paul Oakley, Elizabeth Jones, William Ashpole, Alan Graves, John Wallace, John Whitby
- Independent: Attila Csordas.