May’s EU election could be the most bizarre in British history

The Government is preparing to hold European elections on May 23rd, with the Conservative Party is beginning to invite candidates to contest them.

These elections are coming almost three years since Britain voted to leave the EU and will be two months after the date the country was originally due to leave.

With this in mind, there are bound to be many in the country that will be bemused, especially given promises made by the Prime Minister, that we will be sending representatives to the European Parliament if we are on the brink of leaving. And this is made worse by the prospect that these MEPs may never sit in the Parliament, or even that the elections could be cancelled as soon as the day before they are due to take place.

That means we could have ballot papers printed, election leaflets distributed, party political ads broadcast, and candidates picked, only for the entire thing to be called off 24 hours before. This would be almost unprecedented in British history.

And so how will the parties campaign, with all of this considered? What platform should parties run on, if there is a chance that they might never actually take the seats they are hoping to win? With Brexit almost certain to dominate this election, should parties treat it as almost a second referendum or should they campaign on affecting real change in Europe, despite the prospect of never being able to do so?

Would party activists be engaged to campaign for candidates if there’s a prospect that the election they’re fighting for could be cancelled at any time?

And then there’s the question of whether the public would actually vote in these elections if they feel it is almost pointless to do so. Why should they bother to cast their vote for a bunch of MEPs that might not represent Britain in the European Parliament anyway? Would such low turnout benefit remain parties, such as Change UK and Renew, or would there be the shift to the far-right that some have feared?

It is not clear what any of the answers to these questions are at the moment, especially as it’s still not clear whether we will be still members of the EU by the end of the week, let alone take part in the elections in May. But what is certain is that, if Britain does end up electing MEPs this year, this won’t be any normal election.

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