Oh yeah, the MEP election

There is no party political broadcast within this entry: AllendaleDiary.org is avowedly non-partisan.

This was the second election process this year, so we’d better at least mention it in the diary, even though it actually happened a week ago. That’s the way it kinda goes in Allendale anyway — the world catches us up, but it takes a wee while until we actually notice.

For example, the North of Tyne (and all Northumberland) mayoralty election, which elicited a stirring turnout locally nearing 25%, I understand, resulted in a win for the self-proclaimed socialist Labour candidate, Jamie Driscoll, who will manage his mayor’s fund of some £20million for the next five years for the benefit of the region’s economy, at least in terms of jobs and affordable housing, according to his manifesto. We shall see what impact having a NoT-Mayor will produce in Allendale, won’t we?

But back to the European Parliament elections, held on Thursday last week, with the results announced between Sunday evening and Monday afternoon. Everyone seems to have their own take on the meaning of these elections, with a huge surge for Nigel Farage’s personal Brexit party, eliciting 2 MEPs in the North East (according to the proportional representation voting system the EU uses for its parliament, named after the person who invented it, a M. D’Hondt, Belgian lawyer and mathematician of the 19th century).

It feels like a weird system, with its ’rounds of voting’ that are calculated after all the votes have been counted, the winner of the first round going to the party with the most votes, while in the second round that winning party’s vote share is divided in 2 (1 + the new number of representaives [1] that it has so far, and the winner of that round gets their candidate chosen. And the system moves through the rounds (each subsequent round taking into account the first winning party’s accumulated representatives, thereby dividing their vote into 1+1+? and so opening the way for a party with fewer, but still a substantial number of votes, to be represented.

In the UK, divided as it is into 12 regions, the fight is on for votes in each region, and because of the regionality (ie the North East region, tied with Northern Ireland, is the smallest, with only 3 seats up for grabs), similar voting patterns can sometimes elicit strikingly different results. I don’t know why that is, just something I understand from reading the columnists, and though the Brexit party took more than twice the number of votes than the next nearest party (Labour), by the third round and with 2 MEPs for the Brexit Party, Labour finally got its representative in place. She happens to be Jude Kirton-Darling, for whose family Allendale Bakery had done several catering jobs, which is kind of a nice connection.

Never mind the strangeness of this sort of PR, (though Proportional Representation of any kind strikes me as an enfranchising tool that at least takes the votes for all parties into account, which the UK’s normal ‘first past the post’ doesn’t) . . . never mind all that, the point is: what does this EU election actually mean to Allendale? It was supposed to be the election that wouldn’t happen, so the turnout of some 35% regionally was unsurprising.

For the country as a whole seems to be increasingly divided, with nothing in this election to indicate any rapprochement: the Brexit party may try to claim a mandate to leave the EU under any circumstances (35% of the total vote including the rump UKIP 3%), while the combined strength (combined vote proportion of 40%) of the unequivocally pro-remain parties (ie Liberal Democrats, Green, Scottish National Party, ChangeUK and Plaid Cymru), and discounting the equivocating influence of the mostly abandoned Labour and Conservative parties, would tend to suggest that a new referendum, the so-called People’s Vote, based on a question of ‘leaving the EU with no deal’ vs ‘remaining in the EU’, would result in a victory for the ‘remain’ camp.

But add back in the loyal Labour and Conservative supporters, and you can’t predict anything with certainty, though pollsters suggest that the breakdown then would become 47% for ‘leave with no deal’ vs 50% for ‘remain’. If there’s all that huge division nationally, is Allendale horribly divided too? Maybe it is, but not so you’d notice: nah, we just don’t talk about this matter anymore, if we ever did, simple as that. Get on with life while we can, a good enough motto for any time, I think. Except that (talk about the diaspora that affects Allendale’s young people) both our children now have deep connections with Northern Ireland; the prospect of destroying the Good Friday agreement, which a no-deal exit would do, will matter personally to them and the grands.

But anyway, a climactic day or vote is not here, not yet, though when it comes Allendale will have to be counted just like every other village in the realm. Then there’s still the Conservative party’s selection of their new leader who will then become Prime Minister (Theresa May might have resigned as leader of the Conservatives on 7th June, but she will remain PM until they replace her), then a probable general election, and/or maybe then and only then, as a matter of default, a second referendum on the EU question might be held. Meanwhile, the EU itself may well have grown tired of all this stuff, may hold the UK to its 31st October deadline for sorting itself out, and just by attrition, the country will be out, just like that. I suppose there are endless scenarios of this sort of thing, with slightly different outcomes, but they’re all dependent on the time scale, which still looks shorter and shorter.

And what of Allendale in all this mess? How will it affect the sheep and cattle farmers who will be selling their livestock at the Hexham Mart in due course, after fattening them up on the high fellsides during a hoped-for good summer season. How will the NHS be affected too — I was wondering if I might identify any EU workers during my recent stay, but thought there was only one, the Plastics Surgeon who saw me most regularly. Otherwise the nursing staff was from the Philippines, Jamaica, or local, with lots of new nursing students coming in from Northern Ireland. How will tourism be affected, if the EU becomes relatively closed to UK holiday-makers, and vice versa — might more holidays be made within the country, or up into Scotland, rather than travelling to the continent? We could see a big upsurge in tourism locally, as folks discover the wonderful amenities Allendale and the Allen Valleys have to offer. Or questions of supply chains: groceries, provisions, livestock feed, fertilisers . . . the worry is endless.

Whatever happens, and something will, inevitably, happen, it’s pretty likely that it will take weeks, if not months, before Allendale actually catches up to the rest of the country, unless transport and logistics are suddenly and dramatically curtailed. Then we’d be caught up in the thick of it, soon enough! Catch up the village certainly will though, and that could actually be during this year, the year of the AllendaleDiary.org . . . not a bad choice of year then, for a diary meant to show and reflect ‘interesting times’ for future readers.

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