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European Parliament Elections - 1979 to 1999

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  • European Parliament Elections - 1979 to 1999

    European Parliament Elections are taking place today - but not in the UK.

    Does anybody have any memories of bygone Euro Elections of the 20th century? These include:

    The very first Euro Election of 1979.
    The 1989 Euro Election where the Green Party won 15% of the vote but failed to elect any MEPs because of the FPTP election system used.
    The 1999 Euro Election held under PR where UKIP and Green Party elected 3 and 2 MEPs respectively.

  • #2
    I have to admit that as someone who was anti-Brexit (and I broke with blue tradition and voted Liberal Democrat in 2019 because of that), I really miss popping down to my Polling Station and voting for the group of MEPs in the party I vote for, but alas, one has the chance to do that again in around three weeks' time! The European elections seem to pass British people by, but that was probably due to the General Election. Certainly UKIP's success in 2004 was the shape of things to come and what was to happen over 15 years later. Hard to believe that Nick Clegg was an East Midlands MEP to made it to Deputy Prime Minister courtesy of the Coalition Government - never mind your Farages and the like.

    I assume that 1979 was the UK's first European Elections since joining the Common Market in 1975, rather than the very first? Farage had been an MEP since 1999.

    I've everything I need to keep me satisfied
    There's nothing you can do to make me change my mind
    I'm having so much fun
    My lucky number's one
    Ah! Oh! Ah! Oh!


    • #3
      MEPs were originally appointed, not elected, from every EU member state since the formation of the European Parliament in 1958.

      As part of the Treaty of Rome, the European Parliament should have become elected from the outset. Elections were not held for over 20 years because the Council was required to agree to a uniform voting system beforehand, which it failed to do. The Parliament threatened to take the Council to the European Court of Justice. This resulted in a (very bad for Britain?) compromise whereby the Council would agree to elections, but with each Member State having the power to choose its own electoral system.

      When the UK joined the EU in 1973, a total of 36 seats were allocated for MEPs from the UK in the European Paliament. This was then divided between different parties in proportion to the votes the parties received in the 1970 general election. The MEPs were chosen by and from among the members of the House of Commons and House of Lords as delegates.

      European elections were incorporated into UK law by the European Assembly Elections Act 1978 with 81 seats (out of a total of 410) allocated to the UK. A decision was made by the British government to use Single Transferable Vote for 3 seats in Northern Ireland and the wretched First Past the Post with small (compared with other EU member states) constituencies (approximately the size of 8 Parliamentary constituencies) for Great Britain.

      The very first European Parliament election took place in June 1979 for all 9 member states. The turnout for the UK was low at just 32.4% (the lowest in the EU) and the result was a landslide victory for the Conservative Party which won 60 seats - including many constituencies where support for Labour was significantly stronger in local and national elections. The Liberal Party won 13.1% of the vote but did not succeed in electing any MEPs, although it had two appointed MEPs prior to the election. The only party in Great Britain, apart from Labour and Conservative, which elected an MEP was the SNP which won the Highlands and Islands constituency.

      The low turnout was attributed to a combination of three factors. Unfamiliarity with the election, the Eurosceptic stance of the Labour Party, and election fatigue that year. There had previously been a general election and council elections in England (except London) in May, as well as referenda on devolution in Scotland and Wales in March.

      The landslide victory for the Conservatives was attributed to people in the ABC1 socioeconomic groups (who are much more likely to vote Conservative) being more clued up about this election than people in the C2DE socioeconomic groups (who are much more likely to vote Labour), along with a sizeable number of Labour supporter and working class folk abstaining because they were anti-EU.