European elections: 54 candidates from eight parties contest seven seats in Eastern region
Three weeks after having gone to the polls to elect district and town councillors, residents in Bishop's Stortford, Sawbridgeworth and Stansted will next week return to the ballot box for the European elections.
UK voters will have the opportunity on Thursday (May 23) to elect Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) – despite the country's decision in June 2016's EU Referendum to quit the European Union – after the UK's 27 fellow EU members agreed a Brexit delay until the end of October.
European elections are held every five years. Countries are allocated seats based roughly on their geographical area, so the smallest, Malta, has six members while Germany, the largest, has 96.
In all there are 751 MEPs and the UK has 73, including seven for the Eastern region, which includes Hertfordshire and Essex.
Since 1999, British voters have elected MEPs using the proportional representation system. In each region, seats are allocated to political parties according to their share of the vote. Parties rank their candidates in order, the number of candidates being no more than the number of seats allowed for each region.
There are 54 candidates in the Eastern region. The Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Green Party, UKIP and two new parties – Change UK The Independent Group and The Brexit Party – have each put forward their maximum seven names. The English Democrats have named four candidates and there is one Independent.
Polling cards have been sent out and polling stations are the same as for the May 2 local government elections. Applications for a proxy vote must be made by today (Wednesday, May 15).
The Eastern region's current seven MEPs are Conservative trio David Campbell Bannerman, John Flack and Geoffrey Van Orden, Labour's Alex Mayer and UKIP's Stuart Agnew.
The two others, both of whom were elected under the UKIP banner in 2014, have since defected: Patrick O'Flynn joined the Social Democratic Party in November last year while Tim Aker is now a member of former UKIP leader Nigel Farage's Brexit Party.
The candidates for the region in next week's election include barrister Joe Rich, a Stansted resident and a former Conservative Uttlesford District Council member for the village. He contested the Stoke on Trent South seat for the Conservatives in 2015's General Election, finishing second behind Labour.
In the 2014 European elections, 36% of those eligible to vote in the UK did so, compared with 43% in the EU as a whole. That compares with a 66% turnout at the following year's General Election.
The Eastern region candidates standing next week are:
Change UK The Independent Group – Emma Taylor, Neil Carmichael, Bhavna Joshi, Michelle de Vries, Amanda Gummer, Thomas Graham and Roger Casale.
Conservative and Unionist Party – Geoffrey Charles Van Orden, John Christopher Flack, Joe Rich, Thomas Rhys Hughes McLaren, Joel Ralph Charles, Wazz Mughal and Thomas Roger Smith.
English Democrats – Robin Charles Tilbrook, Charles Jeremy Vickers, Bridget Lee Vickers and Paul Kevin Wiffen.
Labour Party – Alex Mayer, Chris Vince, Sharon Taylor, Alvin Shum, Anna Smith, Adam Scott and Javeria Hussain.
Liberal Democrats – Barbara Ann Gibson, Lucy Kathleen Nethsingha, Fionna Margaret Ruth Tod, Stephen John Robinson, Sandy Walkington, Marie Clare Goldman and Jules Ewart.
The Brexit Party – Richard James Tice, Michael Eric Heaver, June Alison Mummery, Paul Joseph Hearn, Priscilla Mary Huby, Sean Robert John Lever and Edmund John Fordham.
The Green Party of England and Wales – Catherine Rowett, Rupert Read, Martin Schmierer, Fiona Radic, Paul Jeater, Pallavi Devulapalli and Jeremy Caddick.
UK Independence Party (UKIP) – Stuart John Agnew, Paul Oakley, Elizabeth Eirwen Jones, William Ashpole, Alan Graves, John Richard Wallace and John Whitby.
Independent – Attila Csordas.