ON Thursday people will be asked to vote in the election nobody expected or wanted. Political correspondent BILL JACOBS previews the European Parliament poll...

THIS has turned into a mini-referendum on Brexit.

What happens in the giant North West constituency, with some of the highest Leave votes in the 2016 Euro-referendum, will be crucial.

Turn-out is traditionally low at around 35 per cent and no-one knows whether the current Parliamentary deadlock over Brexit will put people off or encourage them to make their views known through the ballot box.

For once who is elected is not very important, especially as the successful candidates are chosen by the parties and they may only serve a few months.

A high-turn out in which the Conservatives do badly and the avowedly ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ parties do well might perversely help Theresa May get her Brexit Bill through Parliament next month by frightening her backbenchers into line.

She will hope Labour suffers as well making its North-West MPs, with a majority of Leave voting constituents, think hard before frustrating her much-derided deal to quit the EU.

A low turnout, a confused result or a ‘Remain’ backlash could bring a full-scale second Euro-referendum closer.

An online poll across Newsquest North West’s six titles, the Lancashire Telegraph, the Bolton News, The Bury Times, The Sale and Altrincham Messenger, the Chorley Citizen and The Oldham Times, showed The Brexit Party well in the lead.

Asked whether they would vote, 85 per cent of readers said yes and 15 per cent said no.

Asked who they would vote for 62 per cent said the Brexit Party, just four per cent said Conservative, 12 per cent said Labour, 10 per cent said Lib Dem, and 12 per cent said Other.

The failure of the Tories to produce a manifesto for these European Parliamentary elections or hold a proper campaign launch suggests the Prime Minister is not that fussed about how her candidates do.

This will dismay long-term Euro-MP and lead Conservative candidate Sajjad Karim, a former Pendle solicitor living in Simonstone, who will not want his Brussels career to end in embarrassing defeat.

Labour, who did well in May 2014’s North West Euro-polls, are keen to maintain momentum and bring closer the General Election its leader Jeremy Corbyn desperately desires.

Both Mr Karim and Labour candidate Burnley councillor Wajid Khan personally favour a second referendum on any final deal.

In the North West the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, UKIP, Change UK, The Greens and the Brexit Party are all fielding a full slate of eight candidates.

The English Democrats are fielding two, the UK European Party one, and there are two Independents including former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson.

On the Leave side Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party is hoping to clean up with his original one UKIP left floundering a long way behind.

Of the avowedly Remain parties the Lib Dems are in a bitter battle with the Greens to see who comes out ahead.

The presence of the new Change UK party, founded by former Tory and Labour MPs, further muddies the waters on the pro-EU side.

Mr Karim said: “The Brexit Party and UKIP on one side the the Lib Dems and Green on the other want to make this a mini-referendum.

“I campaigned for Remain but people voted to leave the EU and I understand and share their frustration.

“I am an experienced politician in Europe of the kind we will need to steer Brexit through if and when we have a deal. I will guarantee to play my part in that if elected. When people voted to leave they did not vote for the destruction of the UK’s relations with Europe which is what a no-deal Brexit would mean.”

Lead Lib Dem candidate and former Euro-MP Chris Davies, who lives in Saddleworth, said: “People should vote for us because we are the party which is 100 per cent committed to staying in the EU.

“People voted leave because they thought it would make us richer and stronger, instead it has made us a laughing stock.

“In effect this European Election is becoming a mini-referendum on Brexit.

“On the doorstep I am finding Labour remain voters who don’t trust their leadership are coming over to us in droves.”

Lead Green candidate and Lancashire County Councillor Gina Dowding said: “The elections are not just about Brexit. They are much bigger than that.

“They are about how we treat each other, how we treat the natural world and how we tackle the climate change emergency. A vote for the Greens is the only way to show the political will to deal with these problems. If people want to stay in the EU they need to vote Green.”

Bury married couple Stephen and Valerie Morris are standing for the English Democrats.

He said: “If you vote for us, you are not only voting for a swift and decisive Brexit but for an independent England free of the rest of the United Kingdom.”

Brexit Party candidate Gary Harvey, a Suffolk businessman with strong links with the North-West aerospace industry, said: “People should vote if they believe in the democratic referendum decision to leave the EU.

“What Theresa May is offering is not Brexit. A vote for our party is a vote for a swift and decisive Brexit.

“Our leader Nigel Farage is the architect of Brexit.”

Number two on the UKIP list is retired Bolton railwayman Jeff Armstrong who said: “People need to vote to ensure we leave the EU.

“There are only two real Brexit parties – us and Nigel Farage’s one-man show.

“We are a proper party that has been around for 20 years with a membership, an organisation and a manifesto. The Brexit Party has none of that.

“UKIP brought about the referendum and Brexit.”

Change UK candidate Dan Price said: “This is a national emergency and everyone can see Parliament is gridlocked and unable to deliver Brexit.

“We believe the only way out of this chaos is to let the people have a final vote.”

Sitting Euro MP Cllr Khan said: “Only Labour can unite us. Voting for Labour sends a clear message for a deal including some kind of customs union after Brexit.”

The risk is an electorate fed up with the antics at Westminster might just not bother to vote.

If so, no-one will be any the wiser and the Brexit deadlock could drag on. This may be good news for those MEPs elected to the European Parliament but the message to UK politicians will be that ordinary people are losing faith in them and democracy.


Eight Euro-MPs will be chosen for the North-West from a regional list of candidates put forward by each party according to a system of proportional representation.

The ballot paper will have list of the candidates for each party but each person who turns up at the polling station can only vote once for the party of their choice, putting a cross in a box next to its name and list of candidates.

The votes are then totted up and the eight Euro-MPs are chosen using a special 'D'Hondt' formula with the number of candidates elected for each party based on the proportion of votes each receives in the region.

The actual Euro-MPs for each region are selected in order from each party's regional list of candidates with number one first, number two second and so on.

To be sure of at at least one MEP, a party needs 12.5 per cent of the votes.


Change UK: Andrea Cooper, Dan Price, Arun Banerji, Michael Taylor, Philippa Olive, Victoria Desmond, Andrew Graystone, Elisabeth Knight.

Conservative: Sajjad Karim, Kevin Beaty, Jane Howard, Arnold Saunders, Wendy Maisey, Thomas Lord, Anthony Pickles, Attika Choudhary

English Democrats: Stephen Morris, Valerie Morris.

Green: Gina Dowding, Wendy Olsen, Jessica Northey, Geraldine Coggins, Rosie Mills, Astrid Johnson, Daniel Jerrome, James Booth.

Labour: Theresa Griffin, Julie Ward, Wajid Khan, Erica Lewis, David Brennan, Claire Cozler, Saf Ismail, Yvonne Tennant.

Liberal Democrats: Chris Davies, Jane Brophy, Helen Foster-Grime, Anna Fryer, Sam Al-Hamdani, Rebecca Forrest, John Studholme, Frederick Van Mierlo.

The Brexit Party: Claire Fox, Henrik Overgaard Nielsen, David Bull, Gary Harvey, Ajay Jagota, Elizabeth Babade, Sally Bate, John Kelly.

UK European Union Party: Sophie Larroque.

UKIP: Adam Richardson, Jeff Armstrong, Fiona Mills, Nathan Ryding, Michael Felse, Ben Fryer, John Booker, Alexander Craig.

Independent: Mohmmad Aslam, Tommy Robinson.