WITH the worst of the Winter weather now seemingly behind us, it’s time to look forward to sunnier months, and the highlight of any political calendar - the European elections.
Perhaps you weren’t aware of the elections on June 4? If so, fear not, you can count yourselves among the 86 per cent of the UK population that had no idea that there were Europeans elections this year.
However with few other planned elections taking place this Summer, expect the European elections to achieve a relatively high amount of coverage in the media.
What’s more, with so much going through Europe, it’s vital that the British voice is heard.
With this in mind, candidates standing for the 72 UK MEP seats (seven in the West Midlands) will be no doubt hoping for an increase in turnout from the 38.52 per cent that voted in 2007 (36.8 per cent in the West Midlands).
In an effort to better understand who the West Midlands MEPs are, and what they do, reporter Simeon Bright was invited to the European Parliament in Brussels to meet the politicians and see them in action.
1. Philip Bushill-Matthews (Con): With a background in business Philip Bushill-Matthews claimed to have been “fed-up” with being on the receiving end of European legislation, without having a say in its formation.
He sits on the Employment and Social Affairs committee.
2. Michael Cashman (Lab): Former Eastenders actor Michael Cashman said he wanted to make the European Union “less market orientated”.
He sits as vice chair on the Petitions committee and on the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee.
3. Mike Nattrass (UKIP): Mike Nattrass sees his role as trying to “expose the new European empire to the British people”. He votes ‘no’ on all Parliament votes, regardless of content.
He sits on the Transport and Tourism committee.
4. Liz Lynne (Lib Dem): Having previously been an MP, Liz is an experienced politician and is heavily involved in social affairs issues in the European parliament, she thinks there are “thinwe can learn from other European countries.”
She sits as Vice Chair on the Employment and Social Affairs committee.
5. Philip Bradbourn (Con): Black Country born Philip Bradbourn has held various local authority posts in the West Midlands before being elected to the European Parliament.
He believes that the European Union can give “added value” to the West Midlands, and vice versa.
He sits as Vice Chair on the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee.
6. Neena Gill (Lab): Neena Gill works on a policy of “constructive engagement towards Europe”, trying to enact change and reform through positive action.
She sits on the Budgets committee.
7. Malcolm Harbour (Con): Malcolm Harbour is a Solihull resident and spent much of his career in the motor industry.
He sits on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection committee.
Getting the best for GB
FIRST impressions are everything.
‘Wow’ was mine on arriving at the European Parliament in Brussels.
It is an absolutely, mind-blowingly huge building.
Inside, huge walkways plough through the building as camera crews from some of the 2,000 journalists there scuttle between a bedazzling mix of politicians, assistants, civil servants and lobbysts.
For Mike Nattrass, the first MEP I meet, it’s a colossal waste of space. “You’d never see a building like this in the commercial sector,” the UKIP MEP sneered.
However Labour’s Neena Gill, sees it very differently. For her it is a beacon of co-operation that is eyed enviously by people from other continents. And that’s the view of the other West Midlands MEPs I met during my flying visit.
For them, the debate has moved on from whether or not we should be part of the EU, but how it can get the best deal out of it.