WALES’ main contenders for the European Elections are beginning to set out their stall for the vote on May 22. DAVID DEANS reports.
THERE are now fewer than 100 days before the European Parliamentary elections, with candidates hoping that turnout will be up on the third that took part in 2009.
All of the mainstream parties have now set their lists of candidates, with three of the four Welsh MEPs seeking re-election.
Immigration will likely be a big campaigning point during the election – with the Welsh Ukip MEP claiming that EU migration has led to the creation of new towns – but others will likely emphasise the importance of the EU for jobs in Wales.
Currently Labour, Plaid Cymru, Ukip and the Tories hold one Welsh seat each in the European parliament, which are elected through a party list system.
MEPs are picked under a system of proportional representation, where the number of MEPs each party gets elected according to their share of the vote.
Who in the lists becomes an MEP depends on the order of candidates, with the No.1 candidate being elected first.
In Wales Nathan Gill will head up the party list for the UK Independence Party, currently the second largest British group in the European Parliament.
Mr Gill, who lives on Anglesey, is currently the personal assistant to sitting Welsh Ukip MEP John Bufton, who is standing down.
“We’ve said all along it is absolutely wrong to allow open door unlimited immigration from the European Union, we have no control over who comes here,” he said.
“It’s made it harder for people to get housing. We’re turning small villages into towns, completely against the will of the local people, without any thought for the proper infrastructure and how these new towns are going to function properly.”
“There’s an effect where people come in, take whatever available cheap housing stock there is, and other people have to move up the ladder.”
Mr Gill claimed “more and more people in Wales are pretty much against the EU.”
“The commissioners are unelected. We have no way of getting rid of them if we are not happy about the laws that they make.”
In contrast Labour No.2 candidate Jayne Bryant emphasised how important the EU was for jobs in Gwent.
The party is hoping to secure two MEPs this year, returning Derek Vaughan and electing Newport’s Jayne Bryant.
Ms Bryant said: “I think that Europe is vital for the future prosperity in Wales. There are substantial businesses here that are in Wales because we are in Europe.
“Thousands of jobs in Gwent depend on us being in the EU. It’s vitally important to this area.
“We do get back more than we put in here in Wales. It’s also important for the rights and protections we get. If you work part time you have the right to a paid holiday – that’s in the EU.”
Ms Bryant didn’t want to be drawn into criticising opposing parties, but said “voting Labour is a positive vote.”
Kay Swinburne, who is seeking re-election for the Conservatives, said Europe is still not in the top ten issues talked about on the doorstep, but immigration is the second most important to people.
“The real concern is never about people coming to work, it’s about people coming here to take benefits with no work,” she explained.
The Conservatives have promised to negotiate a new settlement for Britain and hold an in-out referendum on it if they are elected in 2015.
Plaid Cymru is campaigning on a pro-EU message, saying it is vitally important to stay in the block if Wales is to have access to the European single market.
However her party leader Leanne Wood admitted on the BBC that a low turnout would pose her party a challenge.
The party’s No.1 candidate is sitting MEP Jill Evans, from Rhondda. She told the Argus that only her party puts Wales first: “In the budget debates last year, there were big cuts proposed which meant cuts in the money that would come to Wales, at a time we really need it most.
“I was the only one who voted against the cuts so we wouldn’t have a reduced amount of money coming to Wales.”
The last election’s UK turnout was low at just 34.7 per cent.
Ms Evans said it is important voters take part so they have MEPs “that they know are going to work in their interests and Wales’ interests.”
The Welsh Liberal Democrats, who don’t have a sitting MEP, are also taking part in the election with professional forester Alec Dauncey leading the list.