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Forty-eight candidates under eight separate party banners will contest the South West’s European Parliament seats this Thursday.

The region, which includes Gibraltar, returns six MEPs to Brussels. The candidates are:

An Independence from Europe: David Smith; Helen Webster; Mike Camp; Andrew Edwards; Phil Dunn; John Taverner

British National Party: Adrian Romilly; Cliff Jones; Arnold Brindle; Wayne Peter Tomlinson; Andrew Webster; Giuseppe De Santis

Conservative Party: Ashley Peter Fox; Julie McCulloch Girling; James Cracknell; Georgina Susan Butler; Sophie Swire; Melissa Maynard

English Democrats: Alan England; Mike Blundell; Clive Lavelle; Barbara Wright; Steve Wright; Ray Carr

Green Party: Molly Scott Cato; Emily Rachel McIvor; Ricky Knight; Audaye Khalid Elesedy; Judy Maciejowska; Mark Chivers

Labour Party: Clare Miranda Moody; Glyn Ford; Ann Margaret Reeder; Hadleigh Vaughan Roberts; Jude Robinson; Junab Ali

Liberal Democrats: Graham Robert Watson; Kay Barnard; Brian George Felton Mathew; Andrew Paul Wigley; Jay Oliver Risbridger; Lyana Patricia Armstong-Emery

UK Independence Party (UKIP): William Dartmouth; Julia Reid; Gawain Howard Wilkinson Towler; Tony McIntyre; Robert Lee Smith; Keith Montgomery Crawford

HOW PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION WORKS

The proportional representation “list” system adopted for elections to the European Parliament is very different from the first-past-the-post method favoured in British elections. Instead of voting for an individual candidate, those going to the polls vote for a party.

In the South West, an area stretching from Gloucestershire in the north, Wiltshire in the east and Cornwall in the west, plus Gibraltar, six seats are up for grabs. Each party is entitled to put up six candidates, and MEPs are allocated according to the share of the vote the party secures. In 2009, the Conservatives secured 30% of the South West vote, returning three MEPs. UKIP won two seats and the Lib Dems one.

Voters go to the polls on Thursday, but votes will not be counted until Sunday.

PROFILES

JULIE GIRLING
Conservative candidate

Only the Conservatives have achieved real results in Europe – cutting the EU budget, vetoing a fiscal Treaty that would have hurt our economy and taking Britain out of the eurozone bailouts that Labour signed us up to.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats will not stand up for Britain in Europe, and they refuse to give the British people a say in an in-out referendum. UKIP are neither credible nor competent and they can’t deliver for Britain.

Only the Conservatives can deliver real change in Europe. We will renegotiate Britain’s membership then hold an in-out referendum for the British people to decide our future in Europe. Only the Conservatives have a plan to deliver real change in Europe and only Conservatives have MEPs with a proven record of hard work in the European Parliament.

David Cameron and the Conservative MEP team have delivered the first-ever EU budget cut, saving British taxpayers £8.15 billion. In addition, the Prime Minister has a solid record in Europe; he has taken Britain out of eurozone bail-outs, vetoed a treaty that would have damaged Britain’s interests, reduced red tape for British business and taken action to fix our immigration system and limit migrants’ access to benefits.

The Conservative Party believes in powers flowing away from Brussels, not to it while cutting the cost of EU administration. We want to enable national parliaments to work together to block unwanted European legislation – not just for our interest but for their interest too. Importantly we are committed to liberating businesses from red tape and reaping the benefits of the EU’s own market – the biggest and wealthiest on the planet – to open up greater free trade with North America and Asia.

One of the topics that dominates the press is immigration. Conservatives support a flexible workplace and recognise the benefits to the economy of a plentiful labour supply. We don’t support the freedom to move just for more generous benefits. We also want to end our commitment to an “ever closer union”, as enshrined in the treaty, to which every EU country has to sign up. It may appeal to some countries, but it is not right for Britain.

DR MOLLY SCOTT CATO
Green Party candidate

You would expect the Green Party to have the strongest policies on tackling climate change and protecting the environment. That’s why we support renewable energy targets, community-owned renewables and substantial investment in home insulation, all with economic benefits – creating thousands of jobs, reducing energy demand, cutting bills and lifting thousands out of fuel poverty.

Agriculture is vital to the South West. To encourage food security and new entrants into this sector, Common Agricultural Policy payments should target small-scale farmers using organic, less intensive systems of production.

Youth unemployment is top of our social justice priorities. We will continue to oppose the politics of austerity, welfare cuts and the privatisation of essential public services. We believe help should be available to everyone who needs it.

Green MEPs have been working to ensure finance and trade work for people, not corporations. Banking activities must be split into those essential to society and those not and we support a financial transactions tax. We want an end to current EU/US trade talks that would undermine the hard fought-for democratic rights and laws we have in Europe and hand unreasonable power to corporations.

We have a strong human rights agenda. There needs to be an honest debate about immigration that focuses on equality rather than victimisation. We want an EU-wide data protection law and the voting age lowered to 16.

We also want to introduce an animal welfare framework law and consideration of animal welfare in all trade agreements.

Finally, in the centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War, we want nuclear disarmament in Europe and an end to the arms trade.

Recent polls show a surge in support for the Green Party, not only from disillusioned former Lib Dem voters but also from Labour and even UKIP people who are looking for a genuine left-of-centre party. As the fourth largest group in the European Parliament, Greens are already a strong voice in Europe. A Green MEP from the South West will help the transformation to a more just and truly sustainable society and work for the common good.

CLARE MOODY
Labour candidate

I have had the good fortune to talk to people and businesses all over our region, both through my work and during this campaign. The positive attitude of both the CBI and NFU to our European membership, as regularly reported in the Western Morning News, reflects the opinions of the silenced majority.

The EU has a positive impact on the South West – jobs, protection at work and for consumers, support for farmers, pollution and climate change and equal rights are just some ways in which we benefit. Indeed, we have employers here as a direct result of our place in the EU; in aerospace, the motor industry and service sector. EU funding has supported research at Exeter University, the regeneration of Brixham fish market and creative industries in Cornwall. We’re leading the way in developing new green technologies thanks to funding of the Wave Hub near Hayle.

There has been recent welcome news with South West unemployment falling. But concerns about falling wages relative to a rising cost of living do not go away overnight. Our rural and coastal economies have fluctuating employment levels with lots of seasonal low-paid work, part-time hours and zero hour contracts. This lack of stability isn’t good for anyone. Battling the household budget is the main issue I hear on the doorsteps; but there is no magic wand to secure the steadiness we need to earn and grow our way to higher living standards. It will require action both here in the UK and using our influence in Europe. With the Tories floundering over their offer of a referendum (designed to placate their party, not in the interests of the UK) only Labour offers that stability of influence our region needs. Their dogmatic approach means we are missing out – why didn’t they claim EU funding to help the thousands who suffered storm and flood damage this year?

As your MEP I will ensure our role in Europe translates into boosting good-quality jobs and economic growth. I will pursue funding and opportunities to help unemployed young people, to promote business opportunities for South West companies, and to be vocal not only about the positive impact Europe has on the South West, but the positive impact the South West can have on Europe.

SIR GRAHAM WATSON
Lib Dem candidate

It’s clear to me that this election is about jobs. British businesses and their employees need us to stay in Europe.

Liberal Democrats want Britain to stay in the EU to protect the 360,000 jobs right across the West that depend on our trade with Europe. Nearly two-thirds of the West’s exports go to Europe, which is far higher than the national average. Those who call for a British exit from the world’s largest trading market risk thousands of local jobs.

I am proud that the EU supports this area. Their £1 billion investment in Cornwall has brought jobs to the county – including its new university. Over the next six years we will see a further £500 million invested in Cornwall. Thanks to being in the EU, Devon and Somerset have accessed a £100 million fund to help invest in jobs and skills. And the rollout of superfast broadband will help many more.

I will continue to fight the West’s corner in Brussels – banging the table, if necessary, to get our fair share. I’ll use my experience to ensure we get every pound possible to stimulate the local economy, re-train those out of work and continue the major infrastructure investment EU funding has brought.

But it’s not just about local jobs. I am fighting to keep Britain “in” to be able to tackle cross-border crime and to work with other countries to protect our environment.

Being in the EU makes our streets safer. Unlike the Tories and UKIP, Liberal Democrats want our police and judicial forces working together across borders to tackle criminal gangs, terrorists and paedophiles. Because criminals move across borders our police forces must.

Being in Europe is about working together to tackle climate change and other environmental threats. You cannot do this when carping from the sidelines. We will solve them together, or not at all.

Most of all, I want Britain to be an open, outward-looking, modern country working together with other like-minded countries to build a more peaceful, just and stable world. The EU helps us do this.

It is a privilege to represent the West in the European Parliament. Our message is clear: Vote Liberal Democrat to be “in” Europe and “in” work.

From top: Conservative Julie Girling, UKIP’s Gawain Towler, Lib Dem Graham Watson, Labour’s Clare Moody and Green Party candidate Molly Scott Cato

GAWAIN TOWLER
UKIP candidate

Thursday will be one of the clearest opportunities for decades to send a message to the tired establishment that their card is marked. For more than a generation we have been run by a collection of interchangeable men and women who seem to have forgotten that the prime purpose of politicians is to serve the wishes and interests of those who elect them, rather than, as has been the case, believe that they, only they, know best.

With the elections this week there is a chance to vote for change. To elect people who believe that their duty is to do just that, represent the people. We in UKIP will never claim to be perfect, we will never claim to know best, but we are driven by the simple belief that the best people to manage the affairs of this land are the people who live here.

When was the last time your opinion was asked for? Instead politicians of all the main parties have made decisions on a whole range of subjects without consent. Whether or not you believe that mass inward migration to this country is a good thing, shouldn’t your permission have been asked before decisions were made that alter the very society we live in? Shouldn’t you have been asked about whether we remain in the EU, a club that was supposed to offer free trade, but now decides how and where we work, how long we can sit on a tractor, whether we prioritise birds over people, as happened in the levels, or any amount of other stuff?

UKIP believes that outside the EU basic things will be better, we will be able to cut energy prices to domestic consumers, instead of crippling us by chasing the phantasm of climate targets. By leaving the EU, according to studies, food prices would be cut by £480 per year. If you want to address the cost-of-living crisis you can start right there. By leaving the EU we will be able to set trade deals with anybody in the world, rather than only those that Brussels thinks is good for us.

This is a great country and the South West counties are its finest jewels. We are decent, tolerant, good humoured, patient. There is much to be proud of, but there is much to do. However to do so, and to be able to pass on to our children our country better than we found it, we must regain the ability to make a difference.