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Tom Hunt: Next year's Euro elections matter a great deal – and here's why

Hunt TomTom Hunt is a European Parliamentary candidate for East of England, local councillor from East Cambridgeshire and, at 24, one of the youngest MEP candidates in the country.

Over the last few months we have reselected sitting MEPs and selected new candidates to fight next year’s European elections. I feel confident that as a Party we have done a good job in assembling competitive teams across the country, teams that will be well placed to fight what will be a very tough election.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, it going to be tough, anger with the EU is at an unprecedented level, understandably, UKIP are fancying their chances and huge swathes of the electorate will likely be tempted to remain at home and not vote.

In many ways, our eyes are fixed on the 2015 general election, which will be a huge battle with monumental consequences for the direction our country will take in the future.  Many of us are concerned by the UKIP showing in the 2013 county elections and look forward to the European elections next year with trepidation. 

Many people with whom I have spoken to within the Party shrug their shoulder when asked about the forthcoming European elections. It’s hard to get motivated about elections when you see there is little to gain, but much to lose, by way of representatives, support and morale.  

This sense of pessimism is further accentuated by an electoral system in the undemocratic EU’s own image. Barroso would be proud of it. The closed list system is impersonal and remote. No doubt this was the intention of those who promoted it. It’s also problematic to fire up the troops to campaign in an election to send party representatives to a political body many of us don’t want this country to part of. In other words, why waste your energy, resources, and time on an election which you don’t connect with, you find dull and generic, where you know your party could find it tricky, and all to send representatives to an institution you abhor?

However, I am convinced that the European elections of 2014 both matter immensely to our party, and also present us with an opportunity to lay the foundations for winning the 2015 general election.

Firstly, the European elections are less than a year away from the general election. Despite the electoral system being completely different than that for the general election, they are still a national poll of sorts, so that the result really does matter. The momentum coming out of these elections will have consequences. In other words, the European elections should not be viewed in isolation; they are inextricably linked to the general election of 2015.

Secondly, not only do these elections matter, but they also present an opportunity for us as a party. There is an expectation that UKIP will do very well, for some, there it is almost inevitability about it. The electoral system works in their favour as well as the electoral and political climate.

Moreover, it is widely appreciated that the euro elections, one year before the generals, are seen as more of an opportunity to send a message to the established Parties in order that they react in time for the general, than to seriously consider which representatives will best promote their interests in a political institution they may not believe that this country should not even be part of. All of this means that UKIP are expected to do well.

Putting the pressure on

UKIP will be subject to the weight of expectations. And after their performance in the May county council elections, they certainly have something to lose. If they miss out on a ground shaking breakthrough here, their ambition of four party politics will be well and truly over, and they know it.So in many senses, at a time of unprecedented Euroscepticism, when the issue up for debate is Europe alone, the pressure really is on UKIP.

So much in politics is about momentum, you could sense before the county council elections that the momentum was with UKIP and it mattered come polling day. If UKIP are pegged back next June, if we are able to defeat them, debating an issue where they hold the strong ground, then the momentum will leave them and pass to us. Presenting the Conservative Party with the perfect opportunity to unite the centre right vote come May 2015, an outcome that is critical for a Conservative majority.

The above is made possible because the 2014 elections also provide us with a perfect opportunity to communicate our position on Europe and win the trust of the British people. We have a strong message revolving around Reform, Repatriation, and Referendum. At a time when there is so much cynicism with political parties and politicians, we are prepared to put our trust in the British people when it comes to making a decision of monumental importance, whether to stay or leave the EU. We should be proud about this and embrace an opportunity to shout about it.

Time to get campaigning

However, over the next year we all need to get out there and convince the British people that we really mean it when we say we are going to have an In/Out referendum. The amount of conversations I have had with Eurosceptic voters on the doorsteps who simply do not believe us when we say we are going to be having a referendum is significant, and it says something about the cynicism there is out there towards politics and politicians.

Therefore, the European elections present us with an opportunity to win this trust and in doing so close of the issue of doubt in the Prime Minister pledge in time for the general election.

Finally, a year before the general election, we have the perfect platform to back Labour into a corner on Europe, casting a sharp dividing line between us and them, exposing the weakness of their position and track record on Europe.

More than Europe

It’s not just about Europe, Labour’s on-going refusal to match our promise of offering the British people the decisive say on our relationship with Europe has far wider significance. 

It demonstrates clearly that the Labour elite remains cut off, on the wrong side of public opinion, and not prepared to empower people and society on matters of huge significance for future of this country. Its trusts in own “enlightened opinions” more than that of mainstream Britain, this is the liberal elite all over. We are the party that back people, trust people and empower people. Yes it’s not all about Europe, but the Europe debate has wider significance that the dynamics of this countries relationship with the EU.

The issue of “trust” is an important one here and it is a two way process. The party that is prepared to trust the British people’s judgement on this issue, and convince the electorate that we mean it, will be rewarded with the trust of the British people in return.

It is for the above reasons that I believe that some of the pessimism I have heard in regard to the upcoming elections within Conservative circles has been slightly overdone.

Yes, the fight is going to be hard, but we also have cause to be optimistic about what can be achieved. Whether we like it or not, the Euro elections will be coming along next year, they matter, and there is a lot we can achieve. I for one am itching for the fight!


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