NEXT Thursday is European Elections day across the UK.
From 7am-10pm you can go to the polls and select from one of 12 parties standing in the West Midlands.
This election is different from a general or local election in that you are voting for a party, not an individual.
Votes from across the West Midlands will be tallied up and, using a system of proportional representation, six candidates will be selected to become MEPs. Currently the West Midlands has seven MEPs: three Conservative, two Labour, one Lib Dem and one UKIP. The number has been reduced by one to accommodate the new EU states of Bulgaria and Romania.
Once in Brussels, the 736 MEPs are grouped according to their political allegiancerather than nationality. At present there are seven political groups in the European Parliament, covering a wide range of the political spectrum. All UK parties sit within one of these groups, with the exception of the Conservatives, which David Cameron has indicated will leave the European People’s Party (EPP) grouping – the largest group within the Parliament.
As no one group has a majority (the EPP is the largest with 40 per cent) there is a lot of co-operation, both on individual and group level, to reach consensus.
An example of recent EU law is the regulations limiting how much mobile phone companies can charge us for using our phones in EU countries.
In general, turnout has been on the up for the European elections (in 2004 it was 38.5 per cent nationally), but the recent expenses scandal in Westminster may push this down.
Alternatively people may well use the elections to show dissatisfaction with the main parties by voting for one of the alternatives. The system of proportional representation means we are much more likely to see smaller parties gaining members of Parliament than we would in a general election.
The full list of parties standing in the West Midlands are as follows: British National Party, Christian Party, Conservative Party, English Democrats Party, Jury Team, Liberal Democrats, No2EU: Yes to Democracy, Pro Democracy: Libertas.eu, Socialist Labour Party, The Green Party, The Labour Party and the United Kingdom Independence Party.