Letters: Abstention lets in the nasty parties of Europe

These letters appear in the Friday 16th edition of The Independent

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Andreas Whittam Smith (15 May) gives as a reason for abstaining in the European elections the possibility that populist parties could win up to 31 per cent of  the vote.

Surely this is precisely a reason for not abstaining? These parties are mostly the rather nasty xenophobic ones such as the Front National in France, Geert Wilders’ party in the Netherlands, the BNP and (in the view of many of us) Ukip.

All the more reason to vote, so as to minimise the influence of such people.

Alan Pavelin, Chislehurst, Kent

 I was disappointed to read that Andreas Whittam Smith had decided not to exercise his right to vote in the European elections, even after taking the trouble to see what candidates were on offer.

Here in Putney we did one better. We organised a hustings and invited five of these candidates, one each from the major parties, to come and debate the issues in front of an audience of south-west London residents. 

Dr Charles Tannock, lauded by Mr Whittam Smith, was one of those attending to represent his party. All five candidates were interesting and informative, and I hope I was not the only one to come away feeling better informed about the workings of the European Parliament and, more importantly, what those we might vote for will do when they get there.

Of course there is a massive case for reform of Brussels, but engagement with the process is the only way any reform can be achieved.

And as Dr Tannock pointed out, the Parliament is gaining greater powers, including significant influence over who succeeds Jose Manuel Barroso, as President of the European Commission. I will be voting next week.

Jonathan Callaway, Deputy Chairman, Putney Society, London SW15

On 9 May we celebrated Europe Day, a day which 64 years ago marked the foundation of what is now the European Union. Not many people noticed.

Unfortunately, they also didn’t notice the safeguards they enjoy at work which are down to the efforts of the EU, nor the holiday and rest entitlements they get from being members of  the group.

Those in hospital may not notice the care they are getting from professionals able to work in the UK because of free movement of individuals across the 28-nation organisation, nor appreciate how millions of Britons are able to settle in other parts of Europe and enjoy all the health and social security benefits of other citizens in those countries because of this rule.

They possibly won’t see the benefits for the environment that come from our membership of the EU, nor the wealth that has accrued in our country because of our membership of the world’s largest trading bloc.

Just over half a century ago, our continent was torn by strife. In contrast, our continent today is a beacon of hope for those around the world in terms of promoting peace and protecting human rights.

I would urge all your readers to recognise the positive benefits membership of the EU has delivered and to remember these benefits when they cast their vote in the European elections.

Derek Hammersley, Chairman, European Movement in Scotland, Edinburgh

Where has Ian Richards been these past few years that he can write that “the EU stands as a shining beacon of secular, liberal democracy” (letter, 8 May)?

Auditors refuse to pass the EU’s accounts; countries (eg Ireland) that vote in referendums against the latest treaty are made to vote again until they give the answer that their EU masters want; countries (eg Switzerland) that vote to break the bonds that tie them to the EU are threatened with sanctions; other countries (eg Greece and Spain) are brought to their knees and have to suffer mass unemployment, again under threat of sanction; and mass migration and other  policies have been imposed on member countries whether those countries like it or not.

The EU is a club from which no country can be allowed to resign without, it seems, the most dire consequences.

D Stewart, London N2