So, European elections. We received our polling cards a few weeks ago, and oddly enough, I felt rather excited.
It’s one thing choosing not to vote – but it’s another not being able to. Living in Spain, even as an EU citizen you still can’t vote in all the elections, and at one of the recent ones there was total uproar at some polling stations when foreigners were turned away.
They had been told that turning up with a passport, and being on the local register, would be sufficient. But apparently that wasn’t good enough for a few councils, so people entitled to vote were turned away.
Here in Gib life is a lot simpler. We just missed getting on the electoral roll when we first bought the flat, but clearly when the register was updated we were included.
We carefully read through the five lots of information we had received. They were from:
Liberal Democrat – and the Lib Dems included a Gib candidate, Jonathan Stagnetto
UK Independence Party
The Tories and the Lib Dems produced Gib-specific leaflets. The UK Independence Party didn’t mention Gibraltar. The Green Party added a sentence that said ‘The Green Party supports self-determination for Gibraltar’. Katie Hopkins is apparently ‘A west country woman wanting to give a real voice to the Rock’.
Hmm. I looked at the Gibspecific ones. Apparently the fact that Gibraltar’s national football team has not achieved UEFA membership is a significant political issue.
I can understand the implications behind that, but I am not going to base my decision on how to vote, on football. In the Tory leaflet, it was the first item, followed by telecommunications, free movement across the border, and MEPs visiting Gib. There was some important information on the back page about the CEPSA refinery. Is football really so important that it deserves to come before free movement of people, health issues, communication, and genuine involvement in the community from politicians?
To all the parties – it would be good to hear more about all the candidates you put up.
To the ones who didn’t even mention Gibraltar – you don’t get my consideration, let alone my vote.
When we arrived at the polling station, which was amazingly well organised, and very official, we received a ballot paper with 16 choices. Gulp. I only knew about five of them. And I’d immediately dismissed two of those.
I glanced at the first few – British National Party (BNP), Some Christian Praying Fellowship Warm and Friendly Party, and …. the Socialist Labour Party, led by Arthur Scargill. Ah yes, the man who came to fame on the back of the Lofthouse Pit disaster and never looked back. Mr Scargill merits a post in his own right, but this post about an election in Gib will not be about him.
I read down the 16. I walked up to a booth, pulled across the very nice curtain, picked up my pencil and made my choice.
Into the box it went.
As we walked out there was a small but continual stream of people exercising their right to vote for only the second time Gibraltar residents have been eligible to vote in EU elections.
I hope we made a thoughtful and helpful vote. The right to vote is a very important one, however poor the choice of candidates may appear. People have died in the fight for democracy and the right to vote. Many people in the world still do not have that right. They are still struggling to eat and live from day to day. So it annoys the hell out of me when people try and be clever about not voting because they don’t agree with any of the politicians who are standing. Neither do I. But if you don’t use your vote, one day, you may find you no longer have it.
And last night when I looked at the internet to find the results, it seems the South West and Gibraltar constituency elected three Tories, two UK Independence Party members, and one Lib Dem.
According to the Gibraltar Chronicle, sadly only some 7000 people voted in Gib, out of the 20,000 or so eligible to vote, so at 35%, that was just over a third of the electorate. In contrast, when at the last EU election, the turn-out was nearly 60%, well above the European average.
Gibraltar’s voting pattern also reflected the eventual results in the South West and Gibraltar constituency, with the Tories obtaining half the vote. However the rest of our vote differed from the overall results. Here in Gib, the Tories were followed by Labour and Lib Dems at around 18% of the vote each and with a mere 60 votes difference between them.
Of the so-called minor parties, the BNP got 94 votes, and the Christian party got 70. The UK Independence Party only received 100 votes in Gibraltar, and yet two out of the six MEPs for the constituency now come from that party. There were also 185 spoiled ballot papers.
And one other statistic. The electorate of the whole constituency is around four million. That puts Gibraltar’s representation at less than 1%. It will be interesting to see how much our new MEPs actually do – or even know – about Gibraltar.
The Chron gives the full breakdown of votes.