You may think the verdict on who will represent Yorkshire and the North West in Europe will be decided on May 22nd next year when the European Parliamentary elections take place.
In fact 90% of the decision making is taking place now as the political parties in the two regions are deciding in what order their candidates will be on the party lists. Next May voters will only decide which party to vote for. Who gets elected will depend on the total per percentage vote the party gets in the whole Yorkshire and North West regions. Therefore your place on the list is crucial. If you are below fourth, forget it.
So how is this playing out, who is likely to represent the North in the European Parliament 2014-19 when crucial decisions are taken about the shape of the EU and our membership of it?
UKIP are on course to win these elections. They are on a role domestically and this set of elections will be fought on their territory. It will be an ideal platform for their charismatic leader Nigel Farage to taunt the other parties with his clear message, vote for us to get out of the EU without the ambiguities of renegotiating the terms.
NORTH WEST EURO CANDIDATES.
The North West has eight members in the European Parliament. There is a chance they could take three places next May. Their sitting North West MEP is Merseysider Paul Nuttall. He is arguably the UKIP politician with the highest profile after Farage with his frequent national media appearances as Deputy Leader of his party. Unlike the Tories and Labour he is not guaranteed top place on the list by virtue of being a sitting MEP but is certain to be elected in number one spot by North West UKIP members. If UKIP do get two others elected, the will be complete unknowns to most people. I am told that we should keep our eyes on Louise Bowers, a former Tory mayor of Congleton and Andrew Fairfoul, a Warrington teacher.
The Conservatives will be losing one of the great characters in North West politics. The cricket loving Sir Robert Atkins is retiring. A former Preston MP and Minister under John Major he represented a dying breed of Tories who wholeheartedly supported our membership of the EU. So top of the Tory list will be Saj Karrim who first represented the Lib Dems in Europe from 2004-07 before defecting to the Conservatives. He recently spoke powerfully at a Downtown debate on the value of the EU in trade negotiations with countries like India. Jackie Foster will be second on the list. She is the comeback girl having represented the North West from 1999-04 when she was defeated only to return five years later. If the Tories win their bitter battle with UKIP for a third seat, then seven other candidates are currently being voted on. They include Deborah Dunleavy who failed to take Bolton North East in the General Election having been fast tracked by David Cameron. Another is Cheshire West and Chester councillor Charles Fifield.
Labour will also be losing a long serving member. Brian Simpson first sat in the European Parliament for Cheshire East in 1989. He has done good work for the region on transport matters, but is now standing down. Arlene McCarthy MEP is guaranteed top slot on the list and there is a fierce battle going on for the number two position. Former Liverpool councillor Theresa Griffin has tried for years to win a European seat but she faces formidable opposition from former mayor of Manchester Afzal Khan and Kevin Doran Editor of the informative NorthWestinEurope.org website.
Will Chris Davies retain his seat for the Lib Dems? A dedicated campaigner on European issues, often controversial and a fell runner, Chris has represented the North West for 15 years. His party is at a low ebb.
He’ll be hoping there are enough Lib Dem votes in places like Cumbria, East Lancashire and Liverpool to keep him in Brussels.
Another party at a low ebb is the BNP and it is very likely that their leader Nick Griffin will lose especially because UKIP are making the running on immigration.
YORKSHIRE AND THE HUMBER EURO CANDIDATES.
In this vast region which embraces Leeds, The Dales and Hull the Tories have lost Edward McMillan Scott who defected to the Lib Dems. Tim Kirkhope will top the list with seven candidates contesting the vital second place on the list.
Labour had a poor showing when these elections were last contested in 2009 under Gordon Brown’s leadership. Linda McAvan will be hoping to be joined by a second Labour representative.
UKIP’s Godfrey Bloom is almost certain to be re-elected despite his views about the employability of women of child bearing age and is likely to be joined by a second UKIP representative.
As in the North West there has to be a question mark over continued Lib Dem representation. Sitting MEP Diana Wallis announced she was standing down after failing to be elected as President of the European Parliament.
Andrew Brons, elected as a BNP MEP has now joined the British Democrats and is hopefully destined for political oblivion.