MP Blames Press for Poor Voter Turnout; A Campaign to Make Us More Enthusiastic about the European Union Came to Birmingham Yesterday. Paul Dale Reports

The Birmingham Post (England), March 6, 2004 | Go to article overview

MP Blames Press for Poor Voter Turnout; A Campaign to Make Us More Enthusiastic about the European Union Came to Birmingham Yesterday. Paul Dale Reports


Byline: Paul Dale

The British, famously complacent about voting in UK elections, are even more turned off by the European ideal.

At the last elections for MEPs, in 1999, turnout across Britain was a meagre 24 per cent.

In the West Midlands, the figure was even lower, at 21 per cent.

Contrast that with a hefty 91 per cent in Belgium, and the scale of the challenge facing the Electoral Commission in attempting to generate enthusiasm for elections to the European Parliament on June 10 becomes all too clear.

Consider, too, a thinly-attended gathering of the chattering classes at Birmingham Council House yesterday, organised by the Institute for Citizenship and supported by The Electoral Commission and the European Parliament.

The event, part of a national Get the Vote Out! campaign, was billed in advance as bringing together politicians at European, national and local level, trade unionists, business representatives, charities, the voluntary sector and activists.

A total of 68 delegates from councils, public bodies and institutions across the West Midlands responded to an invitation to attend -not in itself a particularly high figure for a region of seven million people.

When push came to shove, 42 delegates turned up.

They were addressed by Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, who said people would be more interested in voting on June 10 if only the media did not trivialise European issues by harping on about Brussels' red tape and bendy bananas.

'The press, by and large, want to mock what is going on,' Mr Mahmood said to a half empty hall.

His message was that since the UK is in the European Union, and no Government is likely to opt out, we might as well participate fully. On the question of what has Europe ever done for us, he reminded delegates they were sitting near to the ICC, the NIA and Brindleyplace, all of which were part-funded by the EU. …

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