Political parties go head to head for Euro debate

Euro Election 2014 ANL-140428-125409001
Euro Election 2014 ANL-140428-125409001

It’s been billed as the ‘in, out and shake it all about’ election.

Tomorrow (Thursday) the region goes to the polls to elect five MEPs.

The ins? They are headed by the Liberal Democrats who want to keep Britain in Europe.

The outs? Take your pick of parties who want to pull Britain out, including UKIP and the British National Party.

Shake it all about? They are the parties who want to stay in Europe (they think) but want to re-negotiate Britain’s membership. Try the Conservatives and Labour.

According to the latest opinion polls for the East Midlands, UKIP and Labour are locked in a head-to-head battle with the Tories trailing in third place.

Five of the parties were represented at a recent debate in Lincolnshire - UKIP, Conservatives, The Green Party, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Given that the number of media representatives outnumbered local people in the audience, tomorrow’s turn-out could be low.

Mary Johnson (67) was one of the few locals who braved the wet weather. She said: “Usually, I vote Tory but I haven’t made my mind up so I’ve come to hear what they all have to say.”

Most sources indicate UKIP will do well and their lead candidate, Roger Helmer, is not short on confidence - or column inches in certain national newspapers.

Mr Helmer was elected as a Tory MEP but ‘transferred’ to UKIP. Just to add the confusion, he will also be standing in the Newark parliamentary by-election.

He explained: “Campaigning has gone fantastically well. Of course, we want to come out of Europe so I will be voting to lose my job. We’re in it to get out of it. We’re fighting for British Independence.”

Mr Helmer said there were a wide range of local issues. He added: “Immigration is very important in certain parts of the county, as is the fact were paying £55m every day for membership of Europe.

“People are angry about that. They are angry about most of our laws being made abroad. They are angry we can’t send terrorists back home and they are angry about fuel prices, wind farms and NHS problems.”

Labour are at the other end the Euro scale and their candidate Linda Woodings said the feedback they had received locally was that the Tory and UKIP message was unpopular.

She said: “People have been really positive for our message of reform of the EU rather than exit and for our plans to deal with the cost of living crisis.

“Our membership of the EU guarantees us jobs and trade. The CBI estimates every household in Britain is £3,000 better off because we’re in the EU.

“We estimate there are 30,000 jobs in Lincolnshire at risk if we pull out of the EU.

“Labour’s priority is jobs and growth, getting you people back into work - and quality work, not ‘zero hour’ contracts.”

Predictably, the Conservatives insisted they have got their message across. Emma McClarkin, a sitting MEP, said: “If people want to see any change of any sort in our relation to the EU then the only party that is offering the chance - and a referendum - are the Conservatives.

“UKIP can concentrate on their campaign. I’m concentrating on mine. UKIP can make empty promises. I’m making promises that we actually deliver on. We do put in the work, We turn up, do the job and defend the UK.

“I’ve been speaking with farmers about making EU legislation is safe and workable. Another big issue is rolling out broadband to make sure that people can stay in towns and villages and not have to move into a big city to get a decent connection and develop opportunities.”

The Green Party are equally confident of making an impact. Candidate Kat Boetgge explained: “We are getting increasingly popular. We are the only ‘left’ party on the list in the East Midlands and people are realising that.

“I think we will gain a lot of votes. We’ve had a really positive reception in places like Horncastle and Louth.

“Rural issues are important to people. As a party, we are pro Europe but we want a reformed Europe and a referendum. We don’t see it is an in or out campaign.”

If the opinion polls are correct, then Bill Newton Dunn - another sitting MEP - might be looking for a new job. However, he is upbeat about the Lib-Dems’ chances.

He stressed: “UKIP and the Conservatives want to gamble away millions of jobs by pulling Britain out of the EU.

“They want to put politics before people’s livelihoods and our nation’s future.

“Thousands of jobs depend on being in the EU. We can’t put all this at risk by pulling out.”

The BNP weren’t represented to talk about their campaign, billed as ‘biting back’ with ‘banning the Burqa’ near the top of their agenda.

The English Democrats, An Independence from Europe and Steve Ward of The Harmony Party were also absent.

So, will it be a fight between UKIP, Labour and the Tories?

You decide.