Everyone in favour, please show!

By Tom WiseAs we approach the local elections in the UK, with political parties and others seeking your vote at the ballot box, I thought you would be interested to learn about the voting procedures in the European parliament.

By Tom Wise

As we approach the local elections in the UK, with political parties and others seeking your vote at the ballot box, I thought you would be interested to learn about the voting procedures in the European parliament.

Before the votes take place, the parliament secretariat will produce voting lists on the various items to come before us. This allows the members and their assistants the chance to take a political view of the proposals and decide whether to support them, abstain or vote against.

The first two items were presented “for approval without a vote”. Why, you may ask, were they even presented if there was to be no vote on them? Hmmmmm.


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The third proposal carried a set of 30 plus amendments from the originating committee which were to be voted “en bloc”. Having read them, there were several that I could support, but most would, if taken separately, be opposed.

So, on a point of order, we asked to vote on each one separately. No, that was not possible. So, on a numerical supremacy basis, I voted against. Later, on another proposal, one of the political group leaders asked exactly the same question - could we please have a separate vote on amendment 5 in the 'en bloc' list of seven amendments.

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“Yes” said the chairman to howls of complaint. You surely cannot have one rule for him and another for others, can you? We asked. “Yes you can”, he said, “I decide what goes on here”. And so he does.

Most of the voting is done by a show of hands. A parliamentary business is carried out in 20 plus languages and we use the running commentary in our language of choice. However, we run into problems when the President speaks too quickly for the interpreters.

He will call for “Those in favour, against, abstain” and come to a conclusion based on his observation of the hands raised. Yes, he does have a couple of observers to help him, but he is in charge. Many MEPs do not raise their hands to indicate their view particularly clearly. Thus he has to rely on the “voting masters”, the MEPs who have decided what their particular group will do. If he thinks the result is close he may call for an electronic check.

If any member is unhappy with the declared result, they can also ask for a check, simply by shouting out “check”. That there are mistakes is par for the course, but this rarely seems to matter.

You might conclude that both Ken Livingstone “If voting made a difference, they would ban it” and Joseph Stalin “It is not the votes that count, but the people who count the votes that count” had got it right.

Or even Derek Robinson, Union Convenor at British Leyland Longbridge in the 1970's, who said “Matters are decided by people who turn up”

Here in the UK, we still have a chance to influence events. Please use that chance and engage in the process.

Tom Wise is one of two UKIP MEPs in the Eastern Region.

You can contact him on 01525 385900 or by email at tomw@tomwisemep.co.uk

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