Letter: European elections: lessons for the Government

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The Independent Online
Sir: Charles Kennedy was right to criticise Peter Snow's analysis of the European votes on the BBC's Europe Decides programme last night. Mr Snow's obsession with measuring the outcome of the European elections against the results of the last four general elections seemed faintly ridiculous and irrelevant, given his computerised inability to show the national trend in comparison to the 1989 Euro-elections results.

As Mr Snow himself pointed out, although last night's results demonstrated Labour's current popularity over the Tories, the European elections have traditionally represented a mid-term swing away from the ruling government. Indeed, the BBC's reasonable coverage of the results on the other EU member states showed this to have been the trend in all but one country, Italy, where the government is enjoying a honeymoon period. How could the BBC justify a continued direct comparison with the 1992 general election results?

The low Euro-election turnout also bucks the general election trend. This is something that both new and returning MEPs must address over the next five years. In its ever-increasing thirst for new powers, the European Parliament must concentrate on putting more time, money and energy into marketing itself in the member states at a level above that of the single partisan MEP. It is little wonder that turnouts of 30 per cent or below are to be expected if the parliament, as an institution, only gives itself a short blast of exposure in the four weeks before an election.

Yours faithfully,

STEPHEN M. KEHOE

Brussels

13 June

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