Wednesday, June 03, 2009

European Election: The Candidates

Tomorrow, a small proportion of the populace of the United Kingdom will go to the polls to vote in the election to the European Parliament. It is expected that the turnout will be quite low, so why should we go out to vote? Here's a brief summary of the candidates and their election communications, but the end decision is up to you!

In alphabetical order of candidate:

Steven Agnew, Green Party. For a Green New Deal. As you would expect from the Greens, their communication comes on recycled paper, as part of a carbon neutral publication. Their policies are towards being better environmentally, but it isn't clear how this directly impacts on the European Parliament. Rather, they seem like sensible things that could be done whether he is elected or not - and probably should be initiated by the Northern Ireland Assembly, rather than his one voice amongst a European Parliament of 736 members.

There seems to be a good online presence, with links to his own site, the Green Party site, as well as badges for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Bebo and Myspace. It's interesting to see that his election communication is targeted to specific constituencies - ours is for Strangford, Lagan Valley and Newry & Armagh. Is this one different to one being received in East Belfast, and if not, then is it 'Green' to produce lots of different versions rather than producing one Northern Ireland-wide version?

Jim Allister QC MEP, Traditional Unionist Voice. Experience, Principle, Integrity. One of the sitting MEPs, Allister makes the most of this as he highlights his record during the last Parliament - 228 speeches, 46 oral questions and 214 written questions. The other two Northern Ireland MEPs don't come close even when you combine their results. As well as the European issues, Allister is pushing for this to be treated as a referendum on the DUP - Sinn Fein joint government, and providing the opportunity for people to object to terrorists in government. His communication is probably the most useful, in reminding voters what they need to bring to vote, and in providing transport for those who need it.

Jim is also sensible in pushing for two unionist MEPs to be returned through the wise use of transfers, although there are plenty of digs and sniping at his former colleagues in the DUP. Interestingly, while the Conservatives have a candidate in this election, several sitting Conservative MEPs have endorsed Allister as the best candidate - Daniel Hannon MEP and Roger Helmer MEP. A lot more material is covered, but then his communication leaflet runs to 8 pages. Not so much social networking here, just a link to his own website, and the TUV website.

Bairbre De Brun MEP, Sinn Fein. Putting Ireland First. Short, sharp and to the point, in this small bi-lingual communication. Just a few paragraphs in both English and Irish, and some pictures of the candidate. Only one link, to her election site.

Diane Dodds, Democratic Unionist Party. Strong Leadership in Challenging Times. Beside her photo, on the front there's also a blue bubble which proclaims 'The only unionist who can top the poll, which is then repeated in various formats throughout the rest of the four pages. The DUP seems to be fixated with topping the poll, and preventing Jim Allister, or Bairbre Dr Brun from collecting the most first preferences. It's sad really, to see them concentrating on something that doesn't actually matter. Maybe the DUP don't understand elections and how they work, but the end result in a Single Transferable Vote Proportional Representation election (PR-STV) is not coming first, but reaching the quota. It can happen that, for example, where there are three seats and 6 or 7 candidates that the person who comes in third with 1st preferences is beaten by the 4th ranking candidate after the first round, simply because they gain more transfers from winning candidates or those who have been eliminated.

But on with the analysis of their communication. On the inside pages, there are three columns of reasons to vote for Dodds, 22 in total. It's only in the third column that they actually get round to talking about what the election is about - only three of the 22 are about Europe and European policy. It seems that the DUP is fighting the wrong battle - it's as if they have already begun campaigning for the Stormont Assembly elections in the wrong year!

The DUP are also providing assistance to get to the polling stations, and remind voters to bring identification with them. There's an online presence, at the old dup2win site, as well as Facebook, Flickr and Twitter.

While not within the scope of this blog, Sunday's The Politics Show might be influential for many unionists in making their final decision. Allister and Dodds were fighting tooth and nail, with Dodds coming across as ill-informed, nasty and rude. de Brun was sitting between them looking bemused for most of the time, probably smiling on the inside at the war within unionism.

Alban Maginness, Social Democratic and Labour Party.When We Win, You Win. The SDLP are, according to their material, the only major party in the North which is pro-Europe. The communication is strongly focused on European issues, and highlights the party's links to one of the bigger groupings within the Parliament. As well as a profile of Maginness, there are also mini-interviews with 'ordinary' voters from across the province.

Their leaflet is also carbon neutral, reminds voters of what they need to vote, and mentions Alban's two election sites, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter. The back cover also has his election slogan in four languages for a bit of multi-cultural outreach.

Jim Nicholson MEP, Conservatives and Unionists: A New Force. Vote For Change. This may not have been the best slogan within the Northern Ireland context, given that Nicholson has been a sitting MEP for twenty years now. Will the change be him losing his seat?

With the UUP's merger with the Conservative Party, Jim's election material has a more UK-wide feel, with attacks on the Labour Party Government as the brochure is opened. There are also Northern Ireland specific sections, relating to farming, business and community affairs, but in each, the message is that Jim will work with his Conservative candidates in the European Parliament. Would that be the same colleagues who are endorsing a rival candidate?

Just one link to a website, and no social networking, but theirs is the only election broadcast which came personalised, specifically addressed to me. Does that count for something?

Ian Parsley, Alliance Party of Northern Ireland. Replace the politics of fear with the politics of hope. The communication continues in the same vein, with the comparisons between what works and what costs. The environment, business and European democracy are issues that are highlighted. Surprisingly there are no links to any websites, nor even a phone number for people to contact to find out more information.

It will be interesting to see how the election results shape up, and may give an indication of how future Assembly and Westminster elections will go. The important thing is that everyone uses their second, third, fourth preferences to help with transfers, rather than stopping at 1st preference, no matter who it's cast for!


  1. personally I liked maginness' web address: :-)

  2. Ah, I hadn't even twigged that! Well spotted!