Britain prepares for Euro elections

ELECTIONS to the European Parliament are unlikely to provide any comfort for Gordon Brown.

ELECTIONS to the European Parliament are unlikely to provide any comfort for Gordon Brown. Labour's meltdown in the opinion polls heralds a disastrous set of results and the party could lose up to eight Euro seats.

The East of England regional constituency, which covers the six counties of Suffolk, Essex, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, elects seven MEPs. In 2004, the Conservatives won three seats, the UK Independence Party two, with one each going to Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

The Tories had hoped to gain a seat and at one time optimistically believed they could grab an extra one. All three main parties have been stung by the expenses scandal of Westminster MPs and smaller parties are likely to benefit in this region.

Voters will not only be expressing a verdict on politicians, but it's likely that those most motivated to vote will be the army of Eurosceptics fuming against what they regard as the advance of the European super state.

The UK Independence Party is poised to do well, which is ironic given that one of its MEPs has been jailed for financial irregularities.

Other parties pledging to withdraw Britain from the EU are No2EU and United Kingdom First, while Libertas takes a position close to that of the Tories - there has to be reform of Brussels institutions and a lessening of their influence on British laws and traditions.

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The Greens are quietly optimistic that disaffected Labour and Lib Dem supporters will turn to them, while there are fears that the British National Party (BNP) will cash in on the growing anxieties of voters over immigration control and job losses, as well as anger over the behaviour of MPs.

Although voting takes place on Thursday, the results will not be announced until Sunday evening, after the polling stations across mainland Europe are closed.

MEPs are elected under a complicated proportional formula known as the d'Hondt system, under which electors mark a cross beside a party list and then the votes are allocated by quota until all seven seats have been filled.