83 Lancashire politicians vie for Euro votes

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Only one in three of us are predicted to turn out.

Yet 83 candidates will be scrapping for every single Lancashire vote in the European elections on May 22.

And, as in other parts of the UK, one big question facing electors here will be: can UKIP win the battle for Europe - even though they don’t want to be there in the first place?

Nigel Farage’s party has stormed ahead in some polls, with some commentators predicting a spectacular victory ahead of Labour. The Conservatives, who triumphed in 2009, were tipped to finish in third.

Lancashire’s voters are grouped with Cumbria, Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside in the North West region to elect just eight MEPs through proportional representation (PR).

Ten parties are putting up eight candidates each in the region. An 11th - the Pirate Party UK - is fielding three.

Under the PR system electors vote for a party, not an individual. The total vote for each party in the region will decide how many of the North West’s eight seats they take, with candidates listed in order of preference.

Five years ago, the Tories took three in the North West, with Labour bagging two, the Liberal Democrats one, UKIP one and British National Party leader Nick Griffin taking the other.

Three of those MEPs elected in 2009 are standing down. Labour’s Arlene McCarthy and Brian Simpson have decided not to seek re-election, while perhaps the most prominent of all, Sir Robert Atkins, has called time on his political career after 33 years in Westminster and Brussels.

“It has been hard work, frustrating at times, satisfying at others,” said the former Preston North and then South Ribble MP who was Sports Minister in the early nineties. “You may not like the European Parliament, but be under no illusions, it matters. You may not know as much about it as you would like, but you cannot ignore it. It is very significant in its influence.”

The remaining five North West MEPs are all seeking re-election. Conservatives Jacqueline Foster from Wirral and Burnley solicitor Sajjad Karim are the party’s top two picks.

Nick Griffin, the BNP’s only serving MEP, is standing again in the North West, where his party won eight per cent of the vote (132,194) five years ago.

Lytham-born Chris Davies tops the Lib Dems’ candidate list and UKIP deputy leader Paul Nuttall, from Bootle, will go again, hoping the surge in support for his party will mean he is not UKIP’s only North West MEP by the end of the month. He told a press conference he expects three will be elected in the region on May 22. “If we continue on the upward trajectory it could be four,” he claimed.

Simon Noble, a former Conservative county councillor in Lancashire, who lives in Oakenclough near Garstang, is sixth pick for UKIP in the North West, meaning the party would need a landslide victory for him to be elected.

Lancashire can boast the youngest European candidate in the entire country in this year’s election, with 24-year-old Joe Barker-Willis from Morecambe one of the Conservatives’ eight-strong field. The Morecambe High School head boy in 2008 is No 5 on the Tory list.

University of Central Lancashire lecturer Wajid Khan, who teaches about the European Union, is one of Labour’s candidates, along with Theresa Griffin who has been on the Labour list in previous Euro elections.

The Green Party candidates include three who live in Lancashire and a fourth who works as a lecturer here. County councillor Gina Dowding, who represents Lancaster Central at County Hall, is second on the Greens’ list. University professor Ulrike Zeshan, 43, who lives in Broughton, Preston.

Other parties fielding candidates in the North West are An Independence from Europe, English Democrats, No2EU and the Socialist Equality Party. For the full list of nominations, see www.preston.gov.uk