16 May, 2004: Thank goodness only seven of them can win

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So, then, those European elections, eh? For those who don't follow European politics, the gag here is that we get to elect `Members of the European Parliament' to go to Brussels (or, from time to time, Strasbourg) and collect enormous expenses cheques. Occasionally the rest of the EU's governing apparatus (which, for some reason, I keep thinking is the Directorate, but which in reality is called the Commission) let them play at politics by amending a Directive before backing out all their amendments and having the Council of Ministers approve it on the nod. The rest of the time I presume that the MEPs amuse themselves in the fine bars and restaurants of Brussels and try to figure out how to get in on the massive corruption practised by the rest of the EU's bureacracy.

Do I sound cynical? Disenchanted, perhaps? Maybe I am. But I'm the staunchest supporter of the European Union of anyone I know.

So, anyway, we're going to have an election -- on the tenth of June -- and it's everyone's democratic duty to be one of the twenty-or-so percent of people who will vote in the European elections. For whom should I vote?

(The real answer is -- see above -- that it doesn't matter a damn who I vote for. But let's go through the motions anyway.)

The way you're supposed to do this is to read the manifesto of each candidate (or, since this is a pretend election in which you get to vote for parties rather than people, the manifesto of each party), weigh them up on their pros and cons, and decide which best represents your views. Then vote for them.

This should be a tedious and time-consuming task. Manifestos are long and policies are complicated. However, in this case it turns out that an even easier approach works: read each manifesto until you encounter something really offensive or stupid, then stop and reject that party. If you ever reach the end of a manifesto, then you should consider voting for that party. (In the unlikely event that you reach the end of more than one manifesto without gagging, then I'd suggest that your moral compass is out of order and you need to fix it.)

This shortened procedure makes life much easier. It has also enabled me to decide how to vote without actually suffering from any full-blown eye-popping anger. (It was close, though.)

So to the parties and their candidates. For Eastern Region (this is neither a region of validity for a railway ticket nor an address in Airstrip One, but in fact a bunch of counties in East Anglia plus some hangers-on) six parties are standing, plus the independent candidate Martin Bell. (Note that because of the idiotic electoral system, even if 99% of votes in Eastern Region were cast for an individual independent candidate, the other parties would still pick up six out of the seven seats. I cannot even begin to understand the confusion of ideas -- or straightforward party-political dishonesty -- which was responsible for this absurd state of affairs. Morons.)

So, to the line-up: (the excellent -- if idealistic and doomed -- Blog:Vote links to the major parties' manifestos)

So at the end of this enterprise, I've discovered that the only `party' I should even consider voting for is Martin Bell's one-person party list, therefore ensuring that I waste 85% of my vote. And even my approval for Bell is very tentative. His manifesto is too woolly to be certain that he's actually sound on many issues, though -- so far as it goes -- it says more-or-less the right things in the right places. But he doesn't mention (for instance) the Arrest Warrant, so god knows what he thinks of that.

Other issues aren't mentioned at all. What about software patents, for instance? OK, so this is a minority issue (it shouldn't be, but that's life). The major British parties have been either plain wrong or dishonest on this issue, and of course none mention it in their manifestos.

There were moments of dark humour in the manifestos. I was particularly amused to discover that the Labour and Conservative ones have exactly the same front page: (more-or-less)

Labour Labour

The Lib Dems do something more ill-advised with the Union Flag:

Lib Dems

(The swivel-eyed loons' manifesto is in really ghastly colours which I won't inflict on you.)


It turns out the list of candidates I was reading was out of date. The BBC have the full one. Changes from the above list:

So no change to my previous conclusion.

Further update

Jim Naisbitt now has a website about his candidature. Further information in this post. Thanks to Linda Holder of Virtual Tapestry for drawing this to my attention.

On a less creditable level, Steven Uncles of the English Democrats threatened to sue me (because of the use of the term `quasi-fascist' above), and then retracted his threat, after Anthony Wells pointed out that... political parties can't sue for defamation.

Copyright (c) 2004 Chris Lightfoot; available under a Creative Commons License.