The United Kingdom will vote for its Members of the European Parliament on Thursday 4th June, the same day as elections for England’s 27 County Councils and a number of other local government bodies.
While the UK elected 78 MEPs in 2004, this will fall to 72 seats in 2009. The UK’s MEPs are elected using a D’Hondt party-list proportional representation electoral system, with the exception of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland elects its three MEPs using the Single Transferable Vote. England’s MEPs are divided into the nine governmental regions while Wales and Scotland’s MEPs are elected as a single group.
The 2004 election saw large swings against both major parties, with the votes swinging mainly to the United Kingdom Conservative Party, and to a lesser extent the Liberal Democrats. The result for England, Scotland and Wales was:
- Conservative (European Democrats) – 27
- Labour (Party of European Socialists) – 19
- UKIP (Independence/Democracy) – 12
- Liberal Democrats (ALDE) – 12
- Green Party (European Greens) – 2
- Scottish National Party (European Free Alliance) – 2
- Plaid Cymru (European Free Alliance) – 1
The election in Northern Ireland saw each major unionist party retain one seat, while Sinn Fein took the one republican seat away from the SDLP.
Since the 2004 election UKIP has suffered difficulties working as a functioning team with such a large group of MEPs, and have lost three of their 12 MEPs over the last term. Polls recently have shown a large increase in the vote by minor parties in the European election in the aftermath of the expenses scandal, which has damaged the standing of all major parties. Polls indicate that UKIP has returned to the polling levels which netted the party 12 seats in 2004, and that Labour is in danger of falling below either UKIP or the Liberal Democrats. Polling numbers have also risen for the Greens and the British National Party, raising the spectre of the far-right party winning seats in the north of England.