European and local elections traditionally have much lower turn-outs than national polls.
They do matter. Councils spend a lot of our money, and provide essential public services. And the European Parliament, for better or worse, influences much of the legislation that is eventually enacted in the UK.
It is able to amend directives from the European Commission, which are eventually enforceable in member states such as Britain. But the effect of European and local elections on our public services and standards of living is indirect and often unclear. So turnout this week is likely to be relatively low. And it could be even lower than usual, given the current scepticism about the political process.
The steady stream of revelations from Westminster about MPs’ expenses has understandably encouraged a view that they’re all as bad as each other.
If few of us vote, the real winners will be parties such as the BNP which make any politician from the mainstream parties look like Mother Theresa. There is a danger in raising fears about the rise of the British National Party. Not only does it give them publicity, but it risks painting a false picture.
The people of Britain are not about to embrace a bunch of fascists, and major parties are sometimes guilty of talking up the BNP’s prospects in an effort to motivate their own supporters.
But one thing you can guarantee is that the fanatics will make their way to the ballot box. If the rest of us don’t bother, their small number of votes suddenly counts for a lot. The BNP is running a campaign based on disappointment in the traditional parties, and opposition to increased immigration.
What it doesn’t boast about – although the facts are freely available on its website, with just a little digging – is that it is a racist party which believes Britain belongs to its “indigenous peoples” such as Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Danes, the Norse and their descendants, but not black or Asian people.
It wishes to encourage “those of foreign descent” to leave, and to ensure whites are put first in queues for public services, are reserved places in the best schools and are offered employment before their black or Asian neighbours.
The BNP calls this nonsense “racial nationalism”. But it does look vaguely possible that they could win a European seat in the West Midlands next week.
Failure to vote next week could lead to the region electing something far worse than anything we have seen so far.