The Vote For Europe: Little interest in fight for Europe

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The Independent Online
THERE WAS some late and unexpected sparring as the Walton suburb of Liverpool cast its vote for Europe.

It was not the political kind. A boxing club doubles as a polling station here and democracy was not going to get in the way of a meaningful fight: alongside the voting booths a few young lads got to grips with each other and some old punchbags. For the two electoral officers it was a blessed relief. By lunchtime the voting public here had only just reached double figures.

Walton and its Rotunda boxing club in Lambeth Road carries the dubious accolade of recording the all-time lowest turn-out in an official British election (5.8 per cent in a 1997 council by-election; politicians said that the poll on December 11 had been timetabled too near to Christmas.) It also falls in the constituency (Merseyside West) where 11.3 per cent of voters went to the polls in 1994. For apathy, no European constituency has surpassed that.

The quality of life doesn't entirely breed political optimism. The three- storey flats,their window frames fighting a losing battle with woodworm, are poor by any standards. "It's hard to see the point," said a young man who left the club without voting. "Labour matters to me but this one's beyond me. That's that." A woman who walked past the polling station said: "They didn't ask me to vote. If they can't be bothered, why should I?"

Any hunt for nuggets of political significance yesterday was more tricky. A cargo ship, in full view from the top of the Lambeth Road hill as it chugged up the Mersey, may have been Europe-bound. But between 10am and 11am not a single voter troubled the continent's political destiny.

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