IN THE run-up to the European Parliament elections not a single person out of 100 could name any of their current local MEPs, a survey conducted by the Daily Echo has found.
Last week we asked 100 people in Bournemouth town centre if they could name any of the six Members of European Parliament (MEPs) that currently represent the south west and Gibraltar constituency.
Not one could name any of their representatives in Strasbourg and Brussels and the majority said they had little or no interest in European politics.
Bournemouth resident Joe Carpenter said: “I've always voted but I'm not really fussed about the European elections. I'm not sure what they do really.”
Marion Mamm, aged 62, said: “I don’t know who they are. I know what they are supposed to do but as far as I am concerned they are just riding a gravy train. They just look after their own interests.”
The south west currently has three Conservative MEPs, two UKIP MEPs and one Liberal Democrat MEP.
South west MEP Ashley Fox, Conservative, said he was not surprised by the findings.
“I’m not surprised at all,” he said.
“It’s because we represent such vast constituencies. I represent 5.2million people. It’s hardly surprising that unless you’re a Boris-type character you’re not going to have a profile across that sort of area.”
He added: “I live in Bristol, I was a councillor in Bristol. I suspect if you asked that question in the city of Bristol you would have got a higher response rate but no more than two or three per cent.”
South west MEP Graham Watson, Liberal Democrats, attributed the public’s disinterest in European politics to a lack of media coverage about European issues.
He said: “Newspapers and TV report very little of what MEPs do. We talk about local and national politics but not European politics. I regret that but in the twenty years I have been an MEP that hasn’t changed.
“I think in many ways what happens in the European Parliament is just as important as what happens in Westminster but not everyone is aware of that.”
Europe: the in or out issue
THE SURVEY suggests the key issue for most voters in this year’s election is whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union.
With passionate views on both sides of the argument Dorset voters seemed divided on the issue.
UKIP supporter Glenn Barlow, from Bournemouth said: “They are the only party listening to the people. We have got mass immigration in this country which is out of control. I’m just thinking about my grandchildren.
“We voted for a common market not to be ruled by bureaucrats in Brussels.”
Ensbury Park resident Sue Comrie, right, disagreed.
The 62-year-old said: “I know who I won’t be voting for and that’s UKIP. They have manufactured this big brother scenario.
“We take in foreign language students and a lot of them are students from Europe. When you speak to them they have similar concerns as we do about retaining our national identity while benefitting from the being in the European Union.”
Prospective MEP candidates battle it out at hustings
PROSPECTIVE MEP candidates battled it out during a hustings in Bournemouth last week.
In the run-up to the European Parliament elections, candidates from six of the seven parties standing in the south west region took part in the Question Time style debate in front of a 100-strong crowd at Bournemouth University. The debate, organised by students from the university’s media school, largely focused on whether the UK should remain in the EU.
Other hot topics included immigration, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and reform of the European Union.
Television production student and event organiser Edward Lawrence, said: “I’m a big fan of these political debate shows, which give audiences a platform to ask the questions that matter with politicians they are going to be voting for.
“I am proud that we have provided that platform and am proud of the students that covered the event. I think they are a credit to Bournemouth University.”
The candidates who appeared at the event were current Conservative MEP Ashley Fox, UKIP Conservative prospective MEP Dr Julia Reid, Liberal Democrat prospective MEP Jay Risbridger, Green Party prospective MEP Mark Chivers, Labour prospective MEP Clare Moody, An Independence from Europe Party prospective MEP David Smith and English Democrats prospective MEP Amanda Hopwood.
Liberal Democrat MEP candidate Jay Risbridger
UKIP Prospective MEP Dr Julia Reid
See all the South West candidates for the European elections
Proportional representation: how it works
ON Thursday Dorset residents will take to the polls elect their local MEPs by selecting the party they wish to represent them in the European Parliament.
The county falls within the south west constituency, which has six MEPs, and covers from Cornwall to Gloucester and also includes Gibraltar.
A system of proportional representation is used in the European Parliament elections whereby electors vote for a party rather than an individual candidate.
Candidates are listed in order of preference by their parties and will be elected as such, depending on how many seats the party wins.
Currently the south west region is represented by three Conservative MEPs, Giles Chichester, Julie Girling and Ashley Fox, two UKIP MEPs, Trevor Colmanand William Dartmouth, and one Liberal Democrat MEP, Graham Watson.
The results of the election will be announced on Sunday evening.