Euro elections: to spoil or not to spoil?
I have had a habit of spoiling my ballot paper in Euro-elections. I cannot abide having to vote for a party, all or nothing, rather than an individual. This year, though, I had a wobble. First, writing "I dont like this form of election" across your ballot paper isn't a particularly powerful way of showing yourself a Europhile (which I am). Second, if there is a big UKIP surge, then shouldn't one be putting one's vote solidly behind another party, if one wants to stop it?
So I was all ready to cast a vote this time, until -- as always -- I discovered that I wanted to vote for individuals in different party groups (Labour, Green and Lib Dem), but couldn't. So I went back to plan A and decided to write my usual message.
This wasn't before I had looked rather carefully at the ballot paper and assorted documents that had arrived through the post.
For a start, there was nothing that I could see in the ballot paper bundle to tell me how many seats there were in the Eastern England Region. I concluded, as there were seven candidates named for each party, there must be seven seats. But it would be nice to be told.
Then I had a quick look for the women candidates. There were just 17 out of a total of 70. That was bad enough. But there were only 4 in the top 2 of their respective party lists (and only 1 in the top place with a very strong chance of election). 8 were among the bottom 2 places and so effectively no hopers. UKIP and the BNP had no women at all.
At least 5 of the 10 parties were explicitly anti Europe (including one from the far left). Scratch the surface and there were some weird stories lurking here. I decided to take a bit of time investigating the English Democrats (slogan: I'm English, NOT British, NOT EUropean), who seemed from their party political online broadcast to be extremely worried about immigration and the introduction of Sharia law into England's green and pleasant land.
They did at least have a female candidate at number 4 on their list, one Maria Situmbeko. It didnt take much googlimg to discover that she was married to the man at number 3, Stephen Goldspink. But as Mr Goldspink explained online in 2008: "Because Maria does not have a valid visa to stay in this country (appeal pending), we had to seek Home Office permission to marry."
Hang on, I thought, aren't you against immigration? Particularly when people don't have a valid visa to stay?
Then I had a look a bit more carefully at the UKIP crowd. Now, as I recall, UKIP are supposed to be dead against the professional political class, those who slip from university into political jobs without being in the "real world". But so far as I can see that's exactly what their third ranking candidate has done: Tim Aker, who read History and Politics at Nottingham, is now head of the UKIP policy unit, having been director of "Get Britain Out" and a coordinator of the Tax Payers Alliance. Where's the "real life" in that?
Oh blimey, maybe there's just time to decide not to spoil the ballot paper?
(For a more expert analysis than mine, take a look here.)